Sitting at the top of every comic actor’s list of dream roles is the dog in A.R. Gurney’s domestic comedy “Sylvia.” The dog never wears much of a dog costume, has lots of lines and is blessed with the kind of character that can’t be overdone. Chew on the furniture, chew on the scenery, it’s all the same. The most over-the-top actor always gets the most applause.
Holli Henderson will enjoy this treat in Live Theatre Workshop’s production of “Sylvia,” opening Saturday for a month’s run at the East Side venue. Henderson is an LTW regular with many types of roles on her résumé. But she is best remembered as Corie the adventurous newlywed of Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park.”
Henderson’s crown could be getting another jewel for her canine casting in the title role. Sylvia is a metaphor, of course, for misguided affection. Sylvia is also a stray mutt that a bored and middle-aged Greg (Howard Allen) brings home to his wife Kate (Kristi Loera).
Greg and Kate in late middle age have raised their children and grown too accustomed to each other. Greg hates his corporate job, well-paying though it may be. But Kate is discovering a new side of herself, breaking out of the mom role and taking a job teaching Shakespeare in New York City’s public schools.
Marriage being a continuous balancing act of unspoken power plays that fill each day, Greg’s enjoyment of Sylvia’s doggy affection soon has Kate feeling threatened. At the same time, we are reminded how empty-nested married couples often find new focus in caring for a household pet.
But Gurney the playwright has more outrageous acts in mind. Sure the dog could represent the threat of a mistress, but that relationship could also satirize a male’s midlife crisis. Then there are the other people Greg meets: a fellow dog-lover, a society matron Kate knows and a psychiatrist described as having a “mysterious gender.”
The laughs are guaranteed in all manner of misunderstandings as Gurney leads us toward the final confrontation that will determine if Sylvia ever wins respect as a true member of this family.
if you go
What: Live Theatre Workshop presents “Sylvia” by A.R. Gurney.
When: 7:30 p.m. preview performances June 16-17, officially opening June 18 and continuing at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through July 17.
Where: LTW, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd.
How much: $10 for preview performances, $13-$15 for the run of the show.
Details: For reservations, call 327-4242.