This quirky American comedy about a talking dog got off to a great start but later slumped and failed to climax. While there was some great humour, there was a serious side to this play that was emphasised too much by director David Bell
Presented by Brisbane Arts Theatre & Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd
Brisbane Arts Theatre, Petrie Terrace, Brisbane
Saturday, 11 September, 2010
This quirky American comedy about a talking dog got off to a great start but later slumped and failed to climax. While there was some great humour, there was a serious side to this play that was emphasised too much by director David Bell. Ultimately, this approach took the entertainment out of Act Two and slowed the pace right down.
Nevertheless, the dog character Sylvia, played by Karla Deane, was consistently hilarious and engaging. She was the life of the show.
The most beautiful thing about dogs is that they love you unconditionally. Sylvia is no exception. When Greg finds her in the park and decides to make her his own, it’s her constant and unquestionable love that brings out a side in him he didn’t know he had – much to the disgrace of his wife, Kate. As the long-time married couple battle over whether Sylvia is to stay or go, Greg finds himself completely immersed in Sylvia’s world, letting go of all his work and family responsibilities.
The idea of having a young woman play a dog was genius from writer A. R. Gurney because it unexpectedly worked so well. Clearly, if done right, dog qualities can be easily expressed by a human without crossing an awkward line. Although, I suppose the crotch sniffing was a little strange! Deane embraced the role whole-heartedly and delivered the split personality of Sylvia to a tee. Her affectionate side to Greg and others was adorable, and her deep-seated hatred for cats was hysterical.
Michael Civitano as Greg gave a gentle performance that suited the character, however lacked passion in parts. I found the performance from Natasha Kapper as Kate suitable, and certainly believable in her struggles to re-capture Greg’s attention, yet her strong and overdone New York accent was distracting.
Jill Brocklebank could have done more with her two roles as the well-to-do friend Leslie and eccentric psychologist Phyllis. Both these characters should have stood out but instead faded into the background.
There was a great performance from Kate Hawkins as dog-park regular New York native, Tom. She was totally convincing in her male part and received many laughs as she pushed her unsolicited advice on Greg about dog-rearing.
Richard Hunt’s set design worked well when transitioning from the apartment to the dog park through the use of a large screen with a projection of a city. But its emptiness while in the apartment was bland and created a lifeless atmosphere.
The concept of this play is really good, and although there are some corny American sit-com antics, it works with a range of audiences because most people can relate to the love for their pets. Unfortunately, it wasn’t used to its full potential in this case, lacking pace and playing down some of the elements that are meant to be really funny.
Sylvia is showing until the 9th of October, 2010
Bookings at www.artstheatre.com.au.