By Mike Gregory
A play that premiered off Broadway in the mid-1990s about a man’s relationship with a dog is being performed at Ladysmith Little Theatre starting this past Wednesday through to mid-December.
Stephen Hall Lewis makes his directorial debut in A.R. Gurney’s Sylvia, a love story where the canine acts as a vehicle for people to connect.
“The play is timely with the need to connect to an increasingly alien, impersonal world,” said Lewis, who has been involved in professional theatre for 40 years.
“I was fascinated with the history of the play itself, the playwright and the appeal to modern audiences.”
In Sylvia, husband Greg, played by Torry Clark, and wife Kate have recently moved to Manhattan when Greg brings home a dog he finds in the park.
Greg is unhappy in his career as a stockbroker and Kate, played by Maureen Cusack, has returned to the workforce after raising the children.
‘This middle-aged angst would resonate with the majority of the population,” Lewis said,
However, as Greg’s interest in the LabradorPoodle mix grows, it only serves to frustrate his wife.
Lewis said there are many themes running throughout the play including our propensity to apply human characteristics to our pets.
“This is dramatized by a man adopting a dog and the dog heals his marriage and shows them the pathway to greater meaning in their lives,” he said.
In this case Tabatha Jasper, plays the anthropomorphic dog Sylvia and brings new order and meaning to Greg and Kate’s marriage.
Actor Mort Paul is cast as Tom, Phyllis and Leslie.
When the play originated off Broadway in 1995 it helped Sarah Jessica Parker launch her career.
More recently the play was revived as a Broadway show starring Matthew Broderick, who coincidentally is now Parker’s husband.
“You might say this is coming directly from Broadway to Ladysmith,” Lewis joked.
Locally, it’s a tight knit cast who have worked tirelessly since auditions in October to bring the show together for 11 performances, including matinees and dinner options, between Nov. 23 and Dec. 11.
“It’s a genuine tour de force for all four actors – big roles for everybody,” said Lewis.