Sylvia heads into its final week – only 4 more chances (including tonight – Wednesday) to catch this charming and very funny show, which closes on Saturday November 26.
Greg (Andrew Batten) tries to persuade Kate (Dinah Watts - left) to let him keep Sylvia (Lea Russell - front). Photo: Bruce Peters.
The enthusiastic audience at last Sunday’s Talkback asked some interesting questions of the cast and director Maria Popoff, which were fielded by producer Ramona Baillie. Here are some excerpts.
Q: Was there a reason why the dog Sylvia becomes more human-like in the second act?
A (director Maria Popoff): It’s the way the play was written. Sylvia becomes more part of the family…
A (actor Lea Russell, who played Sylvia): I noticed that the rhythm of Sylvia’s speech changed drastically in the second half of the play. She’s less frantic and her thoughts are clearer.
Q: I found the ending unrealistic – the author obviously wanted to have a happy ending, but it didn’t seem believable that Kate would have such a transformation.
A (actor Dinah Watts, who played Kate): I actually agree. I think Kate would have gone to England and stayed!
A (actor Lea Russell, who played Sylvia): It’s kind of a nod to Shakespeare (which Kate quotes throughout the play) – the happy ending as an epilogue, wrapping everything up.
Q: Kate makes a smart decision, and it saves her marriage, but to be believable, there should have been hints earlier in the play.
A (director Maria Popoff): A pet brings people together. They start talking to each other more. As the therapist Leslie says to Greg, maybe Kate is talking to him through the dog.
Q: How did Lea play such a believable dog?
A (actor Lea Russell): When I first came to rehearsal, I just tried to go with my first instinct, and acted like I thought a dog would – just “animal”. But I discovered it was too feline! We had a fabulous movement coach, Jennifer Jones, who came twice to rehearsal and helped me build a small vocabulary of movements. I also observed a lot of dogs in a park near my house, and Maria’s dog Sadie who came to rehearsal.
Q: I enjoyed the scene where Sylvia reacts to the cat.
A (actors Dinah Watts, who played Kate, and Kay Montgomery, who played Phyllis): It’s our favourite too!
Q: Why the androgynous marriage therapist?
A (director Maria Popoff): The playwright was very specific in the script about the gender ambiguity of the character. I just tried to stick with what he set out, and find the truthfulness in it.
A (actor Mary Joseph, who played Leslie): But the unitard, the watch and the glasses were all Maria’s idea!
Maria noted that in the script, the characters of Leslie, Phyllis and Tom (played by Douglas Tindal – the dog owner who befriends Greg, played by Andrew Batten) are intended to be played by the same actor. She got permission from playwright A.R. Gurney to cast three different actors in those roles.
Q; Has this play changed anyone’s mind about dog ownership?
A (actor Dinah Watts): I’m a cat person; never liked dogs. But after doing this play, I’m reconsidering!
Maria admitted that the lovely part-Lab in the photo seen at the end of the show is her own dog, 11-year old Sadie. She came to rehearsal a few times, so the cast could observe and play with her. She is credited in the program as “Canine Coach”!
Seven people from a MeetUp group called Thumbs Up Theatre came to see the show, and some posted comments on their site:
It was fantastic. Well written, directed and performed. Lea Russell who plays Sylvia stole the show, but the whole cast was wonderful. Bravo!!!
I was pleasantly surprised at how funny this play was!! It was a cleverly written script and thought the acting was superb. The dog Sylvia was particularly entertaining.
A lot of fun. Well worth seeing.
It is indeed!