Arts and Entertainment

‘Sylvia’ brings mid-life crisis laughs to Bainbridge

Shakespearian verse is chockablock with the misfires of love triangles, but none of them are quite like that of A. R. Gurney’s “Sylvia,” a fiendishly humorous exhibition of psyche about a couple and their importunate dog.

In the play, which runs April 22-25 at Bainbridge Performing Arts, middle-class, middle-aged Greg brings an abandoned poodle mix (played by an attractive woman in street clothing) home to his Manhattan apartment, where he and wife Kate have recently moved, their kids having successfully transitioned to college.

At once Sylvia effuses love for her new master (“You’re a god,” she says, her chin on his knee, having listlessly succumbed to his “sit” command) and Greg, burnt out in his sales job, seems to have suddenly found his new raison d’être; finally an excuse to trade work for the park on nice, sunny afternoons.

But Kate has just begun a teaching career, after years of minding children and family pets, and she’s in no easy mood to indulge her husband’s four-legged midlife crisis.

The adult comedy is sharp-tongued, with the occasional expletive outburst from Sylvia, though the language leans far from distasteful and “comes in the funniest of ways,” said director Steven Fogell.

The set consists mostly of a leather couch and messy work desk as Greg and Kate’s (John Ellis and Kim Failla) apartment, in which sits a row of old, thickly bound books, the kind that almost always carry a fine layer of dust. A wooden bench denotes an off-leash park, where Greg and Sylvia take their outings.

It’s as fittingly sparse as the dialogue is plump with comedy, though there also underlies a current of sweetness.

Bronsyn Foster Springer as Sylvia, in a role originated in ‘95 by HBO’s Big Apple darling Sarah Jessica Parker, is perfectly fuzzied in an angora sweater and leg warmers. She wears pink high heels and around her neck rests a soft pink collar, hanging from it a shiny pink tag. She shakes and shimmies and sometimes scratches, but she’s rarely on all-fours.

Three other characters take the stage, all played by Todd Erler: trend-chasing New Yorker Tom schools Greg on the balance between wife and dog (“What nature hath put together let no woman put asunder,” he says); Kate’s flibbertigibbet college friend Phyllis laments a husband’s attention lost by a wife to a pet; and Leslie, an androgynous therapist with an odd modus operandi, adjusts his/her gender characteristics depending on his patients.

Here, too, the works of Shakespeare are given their due, from Kate’s bitter monologuing out of the pages of “Hamlet” to the meaningful fate of an old, annotated copy of “All’s Well That Ends Well.” WU

See ‘Sylvia’

At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Satruday, April 22-24, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 25, at Bainbridge Performing Arts. This play contains adult language and is suitable for PG-13 audiences. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for seniors, students, military, and teachers. Info: www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org.

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