Ross Valley Players Sylvia

Photo by Gregg Le Blanc

Review of Sylvia
By A.R. Gurney
Directed by Buzz Halsing

For tickets / schedule :
Marin Art & Garden Center Barn Theatre
Ross, CA
Ross Valley Players

RUN: September 16 – October 16, 2016
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

(September 30, 2016)

Dogs have been cherished companions throughout history, whether in a Victorian country manor, ancient Chinese court, or bounding through a pet friendly tech firm between cubicles. Human relationships form with them in close-knit bonds, leading to “dog children” and a market devoted to pampering and playing. They will always adore us, eager to please, brimming over with love. It is no surprise when weary, dissatisfied Greg (Keith Jefferds) who is miserable at work and ignored by his career driven wife, latches onto a lost dog in the park. When Sylvia (Jannely Calmell) appears, his world brightens with her energetic joy and love for him. Greg’s enthusiasm for a dirty, messy mongrel is not looked kindly upon by Kate (Jennifer Reimer) who sees “Saliva” as a nuisance getting in the way of her work. In an amusing ever building battle, she becomes obsessed with driving Sylvia out of their lives.

Jannely Calmell is phenomenal as the coquettish canine, embodying classic dog behavior—scratching her ears on the floor, sniffing fire hydrants, and leaping to the door when a visitor arrives, yipping “Hey! Hey!” Emotion flits across her expressive face, from ecstasy at going for a walk, to mournful despair when Greg leaves her alone in the dark apartment. Constantly shifting costumes from Michael Berg reflect her moods, with a splash of pink to match her personality. Don’t miss Calmell’s fascinating performance—as much a treat as Sylvia’s rewards for rolling over and catching the little red ball. Buzz Halsing’s direction has her bounding in dog fashion interspersed with vulnerable moments interacting more as a human with other characters.

Eccentric bibliophile dog owner, stuffy society matron, and New Age therapist, Jim Fye shifts between characters with adaptable ease. As Phyllis, the antics of an unanticipated dog send her over the edge, glugging Scotch and desperately attempting escape from the hair strewn apartment. His Tom offers sage, if questionably valid, advice. Jim’s characters offer unique perspectives into Sylvia’s presence and her impact on Greg and Kate.

Sasha Oaks’ glittering New York skyline set is simple and enticing. From the moment patrons entered, I heard exclamations of awe at the lights and buildings ringing the stage. Its distant elegance parallels Kate’s journey. She thought her life was completely sorted out and planned until an irritating mutt plopped her behind on the pristine couch. Jennifer Reimer moves from stern reproach to hysterical fervor, tying the story together with a deeply moving twist at the end. Keith Jefferds’ Greg is unflappable in his doting on Sylvia, even when she disappoints him; a beautiful picture of dog and beloved owner.

Sylvia explores the human need for steadfast love during difficult times, when we want a companion waiting at the door to welcome us home, and lift our spirits with enthusiastic, if soggy, affection. It is a warning not to become too wrapped up in personal goals, unwilling to let go for those we care about. Ross Valley Players Sylvia is a captivating journey of acceptance and love.

Note: This play features adult content and language, it is not appropriate for a young audience member.