COURTESY THE ACTORS GROUP
John Wythe White as Martin and Victoria Gail-White as Stevie star in "The Goat." Thomas C. Smith plays their son, Billy.
Unconventional romance probes depths of betrayal
The Actors Group production of "The Goat" is excellent theater, although it would have been more topical if it had reached Hawaii while the same-sex marriage issue was still high in the public consciousness.
'The Goat, Or, Who is Sylvia?'
Presented by The Actors Group:
» Place: Yellow Brick Studio, 625 Caw St.
» On stage: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays, through June 11
» Tickets: $15
» Call: 550-8457 or online at honoluluboxoffice.com
One objection raised by opponents to changing the traditional American definition of marriage from "one man, one woman" to include same-sex couples is that heterosexual polygamists might then ask that their relationships likewise be recognized. Why should American law restrict marriage to couples?
Or, the protagonist of "The Goat" might ask, why restrict it to relationships between humans?
Playwright Edward Albee takes a look at inter-species relationships, and explores the issues of love and marriage from an extremely unconventional perspective, with "The Goat, Or, Who is Sylvia? (Notes Toward a Definition of Tragedy)." Yes, it's the story of a man who falls in love with a goat.
Martin, 50, is an award-winning architect who has just received a commission for a $200 billion project. He and Stevie have been happily married for 22 years. Martin tells his best friend, Ross, than he has never been "physically untrue" to Stevie -- even before he married her.
But then, under Ross' persistent questioning, comes the confession. One day, while Martin was looking for a place to buy in the country, he stopped on the crest of a hill, looked into a pair of big brown eyes, felt the presence of a kindred soul and fell in love. Something told him that the goat's name was Sylvia, and that she felt the same way about him. Martin found a place to keep her in the country, and yes, he admits, when Ross presses him to tell all, the relationship is sexual.
Ross, who can barely contain his disgust, breaks the news to Stevie in a letter.
It quickly becomes clear that "The Goat" is neither an endorsement of bestiality nor a crude sophomoric farce. This could be the story of any relationship shattered by infidelity -- particularly involving an "unnatural" act or socially unacceptable behavior.
Martin is a sympathetic and articulate spokesman for people possessed by desires others can't comprehend. "You don't understand" becomes his mantra as he tries to explain to Ross, to Stevie and then to their homosexual son how he could go so far beyond the limits of an acceptable sexual relationship. Stevie is equally compelling as a woman sexually betrayed in a way she finds utterly unfathomable.
The tragedy of infidelity has not been portrayed in starker or more painful form on the local stage in the last decade.
John Wythe White, my predecessor as this paper's theater reviewer, gives a brilliant performance as a sensitive man trapped by emotions beyond his control. Victoria Gail-White, his wife in real life, matches his performance, capturing every element of Stevie's emotional odyssey -- shock, heartbreak, rage and a tortured attempt to understand Martin's behavior.
David Farmer distinguishes himself in the dual roles of actor and director. He plays Ross as an everyman who allows his revulsion at Martin's confession to justify a potentially problematic intervention.
Farmer's astute direction ensures that the richness of Albee's dialogue, the issues Albee raises and the romantic trajectory from light comedy to shattering tragedy can be thoroughly appreciated.
Thomas C. Smith completes the excellent cast in the smaller but still significant role of the homosexual son.
"The Goat" is not for prudes or those who find the realistic use of crude language offensive, but adults and teens who can handle the presentation will find this TAG production challenging and thought-provoking.