Sylvia by A.R. Gurney, directed by Maria Popoff:  Nov 11-26, 2011.

The ceiling beams, exposed brick and paladin windows  of Alumnae Theatre’s third floor Studio set the stage and add an architectural charm to this production of A.R. Gurney’s spry comedy Sylvia, in which the eternal triangle gets a new twist:  “the other woman” turns out to be a dog!

Sylvia and Greg find each other in the park, and he decides to bring her home where he tells his wife Kate that he wants to “keep her”. Kate has other plans, and they don’t include looking after a dog. It’s just not in the mix.  Greg’s friend Tom advises him, “Stick to doggie names like Fido and Spot. Give a dog a woman’s name and you begin to think of her as a woman and that is dangerous.”

When Sylvia premiered off-Broadway in 1995, famed reviewer Vincent Canby at The New York Times praised the show for being “delicious and dizzy …full of theatrical intelligence and writerly skill”.  Sylvia was nominated for a prestigious Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Play, and a pre-Sex And The City Sarah Jessica Parker was nominated as Outstanding Actress in a Play for her performance as Sylvia.

 New York-born playwright A. R. [Albert Ramsdell] Gurney has received many awards over the course of a 40+-year career that includes such highlights as The Dining Room, The Cocktail Hour, The Golden Age, and the two-hander staple Love Letters. He is noted for his ability to present “wry portraits of WASP America” while preserving “modest but profound human feelings” that lie beneath “the sparkling entertainment”.

Alumnae Theatre Company’s production is directed by Maria Popoff, who in addition to previously directing several plays in Alumnae’s New Ideas Festival, has worked in professional theatre for many years and is an award-winning film producer.  Popoff explains that she was drawn to Sylvia not only because it’s a comedy, but also because “it explores complex issues such as love, marriage and gender and the dynamics in our relationships with our loved ones – including our pets.  It’s an intelligent piece of theatre that cleverly uses the dog (played by an actress) to convey a quirky love story. The playwright has written this piece with an emphasis on flow and it requires seamless transitions from scene to scene, which is both my challenge and my delight as the director.

Who is the bitch- I mean the dog- I mean the wife-the friend-the therapist-the husband… Gurney has provided a complex myriad of characters that will need to be portrayed without judgment so the audience can make their own decisions about who is right or wrong or insensitive. This play is about everyday people and their everyday thoughts and feelings. A play about life, and love, and that is significant for us all.”

Alumnae Theatre Company’s production of Sylvia features Andrew Batten and Dinah Watts as Greg and Kate, Mary Joseph as their marriage counsellor, Kay Montgomery as Kate’s socialite friend,Douglas Tindal as a fellow dog-owner, and Lea Russell as Sylvia the dog.



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