by A R Gurney
Greg is a man of middle age, a restless empty-nester, tired of his job in finance, looking for meaning in his life.
Sylvia is an exuberant and beautiful lab/poodle mix, astray in Central Park, looking for a new home.
When they meet, it is love at first sight.
But his wife Kate, a busy rising star in the public school system, is looking forward to some independence now that the couple no longer has children to care for, and is less than thrilled by the clever and coquettish canine who jumps, slobbers, sits on her couch, and takes Greg’s attention away from his marriage.
Wandering the streets of Manhattan with Sylvia by his side, Greg feels like he has connected to a deeper, primal, more natural side of the world.
Sylvia supports these poetic musings, but can rarely focus on them for long, being more interested in flipping off the neighbourhood cat, or flirting with Bowser at the dog park.
Sylvia exerts such a charismatic pull that Kate’s friends are appalled, the marriage counselor advocates divorce and euthanasia, and even Greg’s new dog-owner friend warns him of the splintering effect a dog can have on the relationship between husband and wife.
It is only when Greg is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice that Kate is able to see Sylvia not as a threat, but as a new member of her family.
A.R. Gurney’s Sylvia is a smart, silly, sophisticated, and occasionally salty comedy about relationships, nature, and growing older.
Cast & Crew
Greg …. John Tanner
Kate…. June Holmes
Tom/ Phyllis/ Leslie….
The place is New York City, the time is the 1990s.
Middle-aged, upper-middle class Greg finds Sylvia, a dog (played by a human), in the park and takes a liking to her. He brings her back to the empty nest he shares with Kate. When Kate gets home, she reacts very negatively to Sylvia and wants her gone. They eventually decide that Sylvia will stay for a few days before they decide whether she can stay longer, but Greg and Sylvia have already bonded. Over the next few days, Greg spends more and more time with Sylvia and less time at his job. Greg and Sylvia go on long walks; they discuss life and astronomy. Already dissatisfied with his job, Greg now has another reason to avoid work.
Tension increases between Greg and Kate, who still does not like Sylvia. Eventually, Greg becomes completely obsessed with Sylvia, and Kate fears their marriage is falling apart. Kate and Sylvia are at odds with each other, each committed to seeing the other defeated. Greg meets a strange character at the dog run, who gives Greg tips on how to manage Sylvia and his predicament involving Kate. Greg has Sylvia spayed. Sylvia is angry and in pain, but she still loves him completely.
Kate’s friend pays a visit and is repulsed by Greg and Sylvia. Greg, Kate and Sylvia sing “Every Time We Say Goodbye”.
Greg and Kate visit a therapist, Leslie, who is ambiguously male and female depending on her patients’ state of mind. After a session with Greg, Leslie tells Kate to get a gun and shoot Sylvia: “I hope you get her right between the eyes.”
Kate is asked to teach abroad, in London, and tells Greg that the English have a six-month quarantine for any dogs coming into the country. Greg is unwilling, but eventually, he succumbs and gives the news to Sylvia, that he must give her away, to a family who have a farm in Westchester County. Greg and Sylvia have a heated and tender moment. Kate and Sylvia say goodbye; but, before Greg and Sylvia leave for Westchester, Sylvia returns the annotated and slightly chewed version of “Alls Well That Ends Well” that Kate has been looking for, and Kate has a change of heart.
The last scene is directed toward the audience. Sylvia has died, and Greg and Kate still hold her memory in all fondness.