So here’s something I haven’t been talking about, on the rare occasions I’ve actually been posting on this chud/blog the last few months…the fact that I’m currently a full-time student at the Ottawa Theatre School. And there IS a big post coming about that once winter vacation (aka start working 5 days a week time) comes along, I promise. But in the meantime, tonight I finally got to catch the first of the 3 shows being performed this season/school year by the amazing 3rd year theatre gangsters. And I’ll admit, at first I had told myself I would not be reviewing the OTS shows this year…after all, as a student there now, it’s hard to pretend I’m not biased. Then I thought about it for a second, realized I don’t get paid for this shit, and that I can be as biased as I GOD-DAMNED WELL PLEASE, thank you very much.
The new show at my alma mater is SYLVIA by A.R.Gurney, directed by Peter James Howarth. Starring the killer graduating class of Bobby Robert, Jerushah Wright, Madeleine Hall and Jeremie Cyr-Cooke, SYLVIA tells the tale of New York couple Greg and Kate (Jeremie and Bobby), recently moved to the big city from the suburbs, kids finally off to college, and looking to focus on their up-and-coming careers. The plan seems to be going well until Greg finds Sylvia (Madeleine Hall), a seemingly lost dog who befriends him at a local park, and their bond is instantaneous. He brings her home to a decidedly unimpressed Kate, and the battle of wills begins between wife and dog. Throughout the struggle, we also meet a well-read fellow dog owner, a snobby NY socialite, and a marriage counsellor, all brought to the stage by the mighty Jerushah Wright. Al this under the impeccable stage direction of OTS legend Jodi Morden (okay, now my bias is REALLY showing, but y’all know Jodi is the goods, am I right? I’m right.) and splendid lighting of John Solman.
Staged almost-in-the-round, this show is an excellent spotlight for the Fantastic Four comprising the grad class this year. Jeremie Cyr-Cooke, frosted hair and all, makes for a great Greg, mid-life-crisis-ing his way through his newfound relationship with his beloved stray. Bobby Robert brings teacher Kate to splendid life, her adoration of Shakespeare and structure shaken to the core by the mangy mutt her husband brings home. Jerushah Wright is a joy every time she steps onto the stage, especially as zenlike dog afficionado Tom, regaling the waiting Greg with occasionally questionable wisdom. But in a show about a talking dog it really does, in the end, come down to the dog. And Madeleine Hall is just bloody brilliant as Sylvia, giving one of my seriously fav’rit performances in a good long while as the loving, indulgent, and sometimes foul-mouthed titular pooch, constantly in motion and almost impossible not to watch on stage. She scratches, barks and scampers with irresistible sincerity, her ponytail ears flopping all the while. It’s a performance to fall in love with, and if you see it and DON’T, then I honestly just don’t want to know you.
Gurney has crafted a clever, warm and human script about the relationship between man, woman and dog, and the OTS gang have, in my lovingly biased opinion, done it serious justice. If you aren’t a dog person, this show just might remedy that situation. And if you are, why haven’t you seen it yet?? SYLVIA plays until the 23rd at the Ottawa Theatre School (294 Picton Ave. in Westboro), and it really is a joyous time. So be joyous, my friends, and I’ll see you at school. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)