COURTESY THE ACTORS GROUP
Becky Maltby, left, is the dog Sylvia in the Actors Group's production of "Sylvia." Tom Holowach plays Greg, the misguided husband of Kate, played by Euphrosyne V.E. Rushforth.
Not all strays are worthy of adoption
The Humane Society issues periodic warnings about not adopting dogs, cats and other animals on a whim -- and especially not without consulting the other members of the household. The Actors Group's production of "Sylvia" shows the importance of heeding the warning.
Presented by the Actors Group
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 13.
Tickets: $15, $13 seniors, $12 students.
Call: 550-8457 or visit www.honoluluboxoffice.com.
Greg finds a stray dog in the park and brings it to the apartment he shares with Kate, his wife of more than 20 years. The couple's kids are in college, and they've downsized from a home in the suburbs to their cozy apartment in the city. Kate doesn't want the responsibilities that come with a dog, but Greg ignores her objections and is soon spending more time communing with the animal than with her.
The dog -- the tag on her collar reads "Sylvia" -- can talk to both of them. Sylvia makes it clear to Kate that she intends to stay.
If the scenario sounds familiar, it is probably because Manoa Valley Theatre did "Sylvia" in 1998. As directed there by Karen Brilliande, "Sylvia" was a light and whimsical comedy highlighted by the brilliant performance of Kristine Altwies in the title role. At TAG, directed by Gary Morris and with a completely different cast, the story is much darker and presented with a dramatically different balance between the characters.
Dwight Martin played Greg in 1998 as a well-intentioned 50-something executive who loves his wife but feels a void in his life as he flounders with the challenges of middle age and his career. Tom Holowach creates a much shallower, passive-aggressive character whose involvement with the dog seems more about being insensitive to his wife's feelings and ducking the responsibilities of his job.
Susan Park and director Brilliande collaborated in defining Kate as playwright A.R. Gurney's designated villain while also ensuring that most adults would empathize with her. In TAG's version, Kate, played by Euphrosyne "Frosty" V.E. Rushforth, quickly becomes the innocent victim of an immature husband and an unwelcome intruder. Kate's concerns about Greg's behavior seem reasonable and well founded.
The biggest difference between MVT's "Sylvia" and this one is the dog. Altwies played Sylvia with such inherently endearing charm that it was impossible not to take her side in the struggle. Altwies made Sylvia an utterly adorable animal even in the moments when Sylvia's behavior was less than ladylike.
Becky Maltby plays the dog as a cruder, nastier and more manipulative creature. With Maltby as Sylvia, a scene in which the dog spews obscenities becomes an "aha" moment in which it seems that Sylvia's true personality has been revealed, that the affection she lavished on Greg early in their relationship was play-acting and that the street-hustler principle of "See a fool, use a fool" is in full effect.
And so, in this version of the story, Greg is a self-centered fool who is throwing away his marriage to take up with someone who isn't worth the sacrifice. Altwies' captivating performance at MVT made the improbable ending welcome. Maltby's interpretation makes the improbable nothing more than improbable.
Director Morris has succeeded in radically reworking Gurney's tale.
Derek Calibre provides most of the lighter comedy with his portrayal of three secondary characters. He is a significant asset throughout.
Parents should be warned that the amount of foul language in this show makes it problematic entertainment for preteens. Responsible adults will find in this version of "Sylvia" a cautionary tale about the dangers of adopting animals on a whim or picking up strays.