Sunday, September 30, 2012

Boca Raton Theatre Guild: Sylvia (4 reviews)

Boca Raton Theatre Guild opened its production of A.R. Gurney's Sylvia at The Willow Theater on September 28, 2012.
When a middle-aged, suburban couple moves back to New York City, their lives are upended when the husband adopts a most unusual canine.

Genie Croft directed Jacqueline Laggy, Patty Gardner, Mario Betto, and Keith Garrson.

Hap Erstein wrote for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
The success of a production of Sylvia depends on the actress in the title role, and Jacqueline Laggy does an adequate, but unexceptional job. Amusing early on, with her flea-scratching and other doggy moves, she fails to build an arc for the character, so the performance grows repetitious.
As Greg, Garsson is kind of a puppy doggish schnook. Patti Gardner, the cast’s only Equity performer, makes more of Kate’s one-note exasperation that is there on the page. She is a standout...
Genie Croft directs the production effectively, making good use of Sean McClelland’s attractive two-level set. Still, the Theatre Guild show leaves a gnawing impression that there is a funnier play lurking within Sylvia than the company fetches.
Michelle F. Solomon wrote for miamiartzine:
Although Laggy dedicates her performance in the Playbill to her three cats, the actress has no fear when she unleashes her inner canine. With her shaggy hair and natural physicality, she is wonderfully fun and utterly convincing as the street-smart Sylvia.
The dog's devoted owner, Greg, is played by Keith Garsson, who has the difficult task of making sure the man-dog romance stays balanced so that his character is able to elicit the right amount of sympathy.... One of Garsson's most poignant moments as Greg is when he confides to Sylvia that he is seeing New York nights in a whole different light during their evening walks. It is a very real and touching moment.
Patti Gardner as Kate doesn't seem to dig as deep for her as role the workaholic wife who teaches English to inner-city students and is looking forward to a new chapter in her life. Gardner's Kate comes off as a one-note nag rather than a woman who feels that the pesky pooch could threaten her plans for a future alone with her husband.
Mario Betto is a bit too soft spoken (some of the older audience members spoke aloud that they could not hear him), yet he exudes a quirky likeability...
Croft's direction is skillful as she aims to keep the play light, yet brings out much of its poignancy.  Sean McClelland's two-tiered stage design allows for one set to serve as both the couple's apartment and as an outdoor park. Alberto Arroyo's costumes, especially the wonderfully creative looks that reflect Sylvia's transitions, act as a visual companion to the story.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...there is no way to say this nicely: A show that has earned raves elsewhere elicits plenty of laughs early on, but peters out into a production where you check your watch because a mundane performance from one actor and terribly flat performances from another actor drag down what should be an effervescent comedy.
Sylvia... is played by... the lively and comely Jacqueline Laggy... Whether sitting back on her haunches or shaking her body like an ecstatic pole dancer, Laggy (along with director Genie Croft) has created precisely the engaging creature that Gurney sought. She’s especially funny cursing out a passing cat in a Noo Yawk accent, lacing well-chosen profanities among taunts like,” You’re disgusting. You’re a disgrace to the animal kingdom.” Laggy is the reason to see the show.
Patti Gardner has the less showy role as the neglected wife, but as always, Gardner’s solid work enlivens a show that badly needs it when Laggy is off stage. Gardner, who starred in the Guild’s fine Tale of the Allergist’s Wife last season, embodies the dependable professional who you never catch acting... Her portrayal of a recognizable next-door neighbor who decides to fight for her marriage provides this madcap evening its only realistic mooring and, therefore, its only chance for eliciting the audience’s empathy as well as its laughter.
Actors need partners to give them some vitality to feed off; the two men provide so little that Gardner’s ability to keep pitching is praiseworthy. Director Croft should stick these fellas with a cattle prod. Garsson, intentionally or not, plays Greg as such a washed-out nebbish that he cannot carry his share of the play. He starts off pretty well, but as Greg gets lost in Sylvia’s thrall, Garsson’s vigor dissipates.

But the weak link is Betto, reputedly a very nice man who writes and occasionally performs gender-bending shows featuring his Dame Edna-like alter ego “Miss Finesse.” ...he plays three roles... while Betto is obviously trying, he plays all three characters the same way...
Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
The Boca Raton Theatre Guild’s rendition of the acclaimed comedy  Sylvia a... is a silly look at anthropomorphism... The attribution of human feelings to one’s pet is at the heart of this unusual production and  the  effect it has on an  empty nester’s marriage,  and a quartet of South Florida actors, directed by Genie Croft allows its audience at the Willow Theatre at Sugarland Park to have a good time in the process.
Middle-aged Greg (a realistic Keith Garsson) finds Sylvia (the dog played laughingly by a human – Jacqueline Laggy) and brings her home to his wife Kate (the lovely Patti Gardner)...
A special note of praise goes to actress Laggy, who has a  most difficult role—that of the dog.  She begs, rolls over and reacts to her owner’s commands and shows the affection that a pet can have for its owner.  She even shows the pain of being spayed but still in love with her master.  Laggy turns in a sublimely funny interpretation.
Betto, too, tackles his/her three roles with giant steps. He is an actor not seen enough in local productions.
Boca Raton Theatre Guild's production of Sylvia plays at the Willow Theater through October 14, 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment