April 29, 2007

Sylvia

I was mortified.

Halfway through act 2, one of the characters said something so jaw-droppingly surprising, I involuntarily said, "what.", out loud. And not a soft little out loud either; not only did the people in the seats next to me surely hear it, but the theatre itself was so small I suspect that the whole audience must have. That's what it felt like, anyway. This is going to be one of those embarrassing moments that plays back in my brain for years, like the time I dropped the soup bowl in the soup, although that time at least it was only my mom that witnessed it (I think).

But let me back up a bit. Tonight I drove out to Sandburg for the spring Prairie Players show, Sylvia, about a middle-aged man in midlife crisis who becomes an irresponsible dog owner and nearly destroys his marriage—the main characters being himself, his wife, and his dog Sylvia. Despite being a production of PPCT, which often functions as an annex of the GHS theatre department, this evening's show was instead a virtual extension of the Knox theatre department, with the director and all six actors being current or former students thereof.

The acting in the show was pretty polished. Cindy Reiter in particular did a great job as the dog Sylvia—not only in the lines themselves, but in her manner of acting and movement, she came across with a highly canine personality that any dog owner would recognise. Probably by design, it's Sylvia that the audience came to most sympathise with; the owner Greg (Eli King) seems basically nice but deeply irresponsible in a variety of ways, and the wife Kate (Sarah Bigus) is legitimately frustrated with the dog but then comes across as a little mean and far too obsessive. The clear winner in the supporting actor category has to go to Maren Reisch as the marriage counselor, who had the most fantastically expressive eyes and eyebrows when she was listening to Greg go on and on about Sylvia.

And yet I was still a bit dissatisfied, especially with the first act. Perhaps it was just a little too slow-paced (and that might be the fault of the writer as much as anything), but I found myself a bit bored, my attention wandering at various points. It was a weird tension, because I was simultaneously making mental notes on what a good job the actors were doing and what a neat premise the show had, even as I was forming an overall "enh" image of the play.

The second act suffered from this problem a lot less, maybe because I was by this point more interested in how the conflict would resolve. It didn't seem like the sort of show that would have an unhappy ending, and yet the conflict between the dog and the wife seemed irreconcilable and growing. It is perhaps a testament to how engaged I was that my abovementioned slip occurred, but I really don't want to think about that any more. :P

Certainly, in the end, I can give an overall positive opinion of the show. I still think that the first act dragged a little, but the premise was good, the acting was good, and despite a bunch of fluffed lines, the pacing cleared itself up in time for a not quite expected and slightly sad (but ultimately satisfying) ending.

I ask for nothing; I can get by.
But I know so many less lucky than I.
Please help my people, the poor and down-trod—
I thought we all were the children of God. --Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, "God help the outcasts"

Posted by blahedo at 12:05am on 29 Apr 2007
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