Sylvia, a contemporary comedy by the American playwright A.R. Gurney, shines brightly at the California Conservatory Theatre.
This unusual, highly comical, yet heart-wrenching play explores the dilemma of a dog found in a New York City park from three different points of view: that of Sylvia, the dog; Greg, the man who finds her irresistible and adopts her; and Greg's wife, Kate, whose jealousy of the dog and anger toward her husband almost destroys her marriage.
The role of Sylvia is played with high energy, verve, and utter freedom of spirit by Casey Ellis, who is the essence of dogdom.
A talented young actress, she takes us through a gamut of feelings and behaviors. She is shy, well-behaved, defiant, loving, devastated, and manipulative in turn. She has transferred human emotion into the character of a dog, and we (the audience) go along for the ride.
Actress Sylvia Burboeck, not to be confused with the character of the dog, plays Kate, the outraged wife who is suddenly confronted with the indignity of having to live with and share her husband's attention and affections with a dog.
Burboeck has a wonderful elegance of style. She is a highly polished and very versatile actress, and she makes each role her own. Her precision of performance is the perfect foil for the character of the dog.
Danny Cunningham plays Greg, the egregious husband who is oblivious to anyone's feelings other than his own. Cunningham keeps us alternately laughing and frustrated as he stumbles through life, keeping himself and his desires front and center.
As an actor, he creates an admirable portrayal of an easy-going man who has found a new passion for life, while refusing to acknowledge the reality that is crumbling around him.
Thomas Theriott plays three very different characters: the macho owner of a macho dog named Bowser; a female friend of Kate's; and a therapist who is ambivalent, but not about his therapeutic opinions and advice.
It is not easy for an actor to portray such diversity within a two hour show, and while each of the roles was clear and well-defined, he was particularly convincing as Kate's rich, patronizing, and somewhat obnoxious friend.
The costumes were beautifully created by Diane Dahms, who not only has a wonderful eye for fashion, but also a deep understanding of the subtleties of how the right costume helps the audience to understand the characters.
The California Conservatory Theatre is a small venue (the house only seats 67). The plays that are selected for production are clearly very carefully chosen, and are a "perfect fit" for this intimate setting.
This is a wonderful production: don't miss it!
Please note: This is not a show for children. It deals with adult themes and has language that is inappropriate for children.
The show runs from June 1 through June 24. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m., and the second & fourth Saturdays of the run at 2:00 p.m.
The theatre is located at 999 East 14th Street, and parking is easy and close.
The box office is opened Tuesday through Friday, from noon to 4:00 P.M., and the phone number is (510) 632-8850.
The e-mail address is CCTofSL@yahoo.com.