Cultural Arts: Stages
The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?
Winner of the 2002 Drama Desk and Tony Awards for Best Play and a 2003 Pulitzer Prize finalist, The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? is the searing tale of a married, middle-aged architect, Martin, his wife Stevie, and their son Billy, whose lives crumble when Martin falls in love with a goat. The Goat focuses on the limits of an ostensibly liberal society, challenging audiences to question their own morality and the ways in which we choose to maintain humanity and dignity when taken to the brink of extreme chaos.
Written by Edward Albee
Directed by Ken Sawyer
Produced by Los Angeles LGBT Center/Jon Imparato
Presented at the Center’s Davidson/Valentini Theatre on September 19, 2014
Directed by Ken Sawyer; setting by Robert Selander; costumes by Paula Higgins; lighting by Matt Richter; sound by Ken Sawyer; fight choreography by Edgar Landa, production stage manager Kathleen Jaffe; production manager Patricia Sutherland; assistant director Shaunessy Quinn; and crew Norman Cox, Adam Earle, Allison Hill, Pete Sauber, and Bethany Tucker.
How to explain why The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? at the Davidson/Valentini Theatre is one of the most exceptional L.A. productions of this or any year? For starters, director Ken Sawyer—whose invisibly manipulated staging holds us from deliciously twisted beginning to wholly shattering end—and producer Jon Imparato—his program notes making it vividly clear why author Edward Albee permitted the LGBT Center to product his play—clearly understand that this Tony-winner is at once a serio-comic commentary on the vagaries of love, an oblique statement about the inability to truly know another (or even one’s self) and a shrewdly posited nod to classic Greek tragedy (not for nothing are the Eumenides invoked).
Furthermore, the physical execution, starting with Robert Selander’s sleek townhouse set and continuing through Matt Richter’s subtle lighting and Paula Higgins’ character-defining costumes, is of a polish that larger houses might envy.
But ultimately it’s the cast of this idiosyncratic, brilliantly maneuvered script—in which a successful, happily married couple’s idyll is upended by the husband’s interspecies romance with the titular creature—that brings the work home.
Matt Kirkwood is his usual taut, spontaneous self as the meddling “best friend” whose aghast interference launches the fireworks, and Spencer Morrissey’s unaffected assurance as their seemingly well-adjusted gay teenaged son announces a major find.
And then, there are a preternaturally invested Paul Witten and the astonishing, never-better Ann Noble as hapless Martin and unhinged Stevie, whose electrifying face-off at the play’s center is the stuff from which theatrical legends are born. Indeed, L.A. audiences have perhaps not seen so perfectly pitched, self-evident and emotionally charged a double-act since Chris Butler and Deidrie Henry in Yellowman at the Fountain—easily the tandem turns of 2014, and fully up to comparisons with Broadway’s Bill Pullman and Mercedes Ruehl and the Mark Taper’s Brian Kerwin and Cynthia Mace.
At the finish of the airtight 90-minute proceedings, this observer wandered in a daze to the sidewalk and walked for a full hour, mere to try and grasp what he’d just experienced.
If you think this off-the-cuff love letter is over the top, you haven’t seen the show, which under no circumstances should be missed.
Bravi a tutti, bis, mille grazie………