Dogs are an important part of our culture and the Oil Lamp Theater is charming audiences with a heartwarming tale about “man’s best friend.” Sylvia tells the story of two New York empty nesters — Greg, a successful middle-aged currency trader who finds himself increasingly disappointed with his empty and unfulfilling life, and his wife Kate who has started a new career as a teacher and is settling into her life as an “empty nester.”
One day, Greg brings home a stray dog he finds — or that finds him —while walking in Central Park. This adorable, street-smart labradoodle mix seems to be lost, with only the name “Sylvia” on her tag to identify her. Greg is immediately infatuated with the adorable Sylvia and she leaps into his lap and into his life, offering him unconditional love and hope. Greg’s enthusiasm for the new canine house guest is not shared by his wife. Kate says she wants no pets in her life – and means it. As Greg is forced to make a tough choice between Kate and Sylvia, three other characters join in to add their own hilarious perspectives on this unusual love triangle: Tom is a philosophical dog-owner in the park who offers Greg advice on his situation; Phyllis is an old classmate of Kate’s and Leslie is a flamboyant marriage counselor.
It’s clear that Greg is a little too obsessed with his new dog. He keeps blowing off work to take her for walks and teach her tricks. Played by Steve Silver with a calm exuberance, Greg clearly loves his wife, but Sylvia is all he can talk about. Nicola Howard plays Kate with an even hand and connects with the audience even though she gets the short end of the stick. She wasn’t consulted and doesn’t want a dog, that’s clearly disrupting her life. She’s jealous of the attention her husband is lavishing on another female, even if it is a four-legged one. Daniella Rukin is Sylvia and she plays the part of a dog with energy. She’s infectiously boisterous, upbeat and eager to please, doting on Greg with unconditional love. She’s mischievous in her constant attempts to talk her way into being allowed to sit on the furniture and her unconvincing claim to be house trained. She’s also amusingly foul-mouthed, especially when she’s in heat or cussing out a cat. Some of her movements are canine, she carries on normal conversations in English, and everyone can understand what she’s saying. Her barks are appropriately translated as “Hey! Hey! Hey!” Eric Bays is priceless, playing Tom, Phyllis, and Leslie. He imparts a different glint and philosophy on the issue through each of these characters and will keep you amused and laughing.
This A.R. Gurney comedy is alternately funny, poignant and psychologically acute in its portrayal of a man, a dog and a midlife crisis because of the talking dog. Director Keith Gerth does a fine job in maintaining the balance of this play and doesn’t let it get out of hand, yet he allows the actors to realize the full emotion of their characters. In the end this production is fun, entertaining, enjoyable, and worth the 2 hour 10 minute running time.
Sylvia runs through June 15 at the Oil Lamp Theater 1723 Glenview Road, Glenview, IL
Show times: Thursday, Friday, Saturday – 8:00 PM
Sunday – 3:00 PM (Sunday May 31 sold out)
Tickets are $30.00 and can be purchased at: www.oillamptheater.org or at 847- 834-0738
Parking is in a lot adjacent to the theater or on the street.