Review "The Goat Or, Who is Sylvia?": Not Just Another Bleating Heart Hook-up

Audio Podcast available on ITUNES
Narrated by Joshua Volkers

 

Remy Bumppo Theatre Company presents

THE GOAT OR, WHO IS SYLVIA?the goat.jpg

At Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln 

Written by Edward Allbee

Directed by James Bohnen

Wednesdays to Saturdays at 7:30pm

Sundays at 2:30pm

Thru May 8th 

Running Time:  One hundred minutes with no intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Heterosexuality, homosexuality, prostitution, voyeurism, incest, pedophile, bestiality:  one man's sexual revolution is a war on what is considered taboo.  Remy Bumppo Theatre Company presents THE GOAT OR, WHO IS SYLVIA?  A successful architect is turning fifty.  His work is receiving prestigious awards. His twenty-two year marriage is a solid partnership.  His life appears of the happily-ever-after variety. When his best friend arrives to interview him for a TV show, Martin is distracted.   At Ross' urging, Martin reveals his secret, a six month long affair with a goat.  THE GOAT OR, WHO IS SYLVIA? is not just another bleating heart hook-up.  It's a love triangle where the scapegoat is actually a goat.  Inconceivable!  The far-fetched lunacy is hilarious until the gut-wrenching reality is devastating.       

2_SANDYS(Martin)_ARMOUR(Stevie).jpgPlaywright Edward Albee knows how to make an unsettling impression.  Albee creates a normal world of relationship nicety and then drops the goat.  The sex talk swings all ways cueing up a graphic peep show of the imagination.  Disturbing!  Under the direction of James Bohnen, every emotion is explored and exhausted within the tight 100 minutes.  Annabel Armour (Stevie) and Nick Sandys (Martin) have that fun-loving synergy of a couple that enjoys intellectual witty banter.  Even during the lovestock barn burner, they complement each other for well-worded metaphorical jokes.  As the betrayed wife, Armour is every angle hysterical.  She wails and flails with out-of-control impulsiveness.  She also jabs the punch line with comedic precision.  Sandys has the complicated task of garnering empathy as a goat-f#cker.  With an unimaginably romantic tenderness in his telling the how-we-met story, Sandys blurs the lines between fetish and fondness.  The provocative dialogue pokes at the forbidden in defense of free love.  After the climax, you don't necessarily want to smoke but you definitely want a drink.          

Albee has made a living stirring up thought-provoking, messy lives for consideration and entertainment.  In THE GOAT OR, WHO IS SYLVIA?, his infidelity twist continues to percolate in my mind.  Albee thrusts bestiality out of the closet for discussion. What I didn't like is Albee's linking homosexuality with incest and pedophiles.  I understood it as a plot point.  I fear it as fuel to the fire for the so-called moral majority.   But liberal or conservative, gay or straight, traditional or same-sex,  any marriage woes compared to goat sex seem somehow surmountable.  Let the girl and the goat kidding begin.          

      

Continuing to muddle with it, James describes it with 'somewhat fulfilled affair.'

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  • I think Remy Bumppo missed the mark with this one. In the performance I watched I didn't see any moments between Martin and Stevie that suggested they had actually ever been intimate with one another or had sex, recently or any time in their past. Set in another context, I could see these two actors playing mother/son and believing that more than the sexless husband/wife relationship I observed in The Goat. Without the foundation of a strong sexual connection between Stevie and Martin, it is hard for the audience to believe Stevie is actually jealous. Weirdly, sickly, darkly jealous. There is more to this play than hearing about how some seriously disturbed man made it with a goat. Bestiality is merely the backdrop, our jumping off point. The real gold in any script, I think, exists in how the characters move forward. My point...hard to care about how the characters move forward when all along the way you see no past.

    There are about one hundred thousand opportunities in this script for the actors to get a laugh. I was deadened to the story as I watched actors go for each and every one of those opportunities as though they were built into the script with the formulaic nuance of a TV sitcom. I don't think the audience members were too helpful in this respect as they too often encouraged the easy laughs, jilting themselves of the true payoff of this script. The true riches in The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? I think, is in the observation and discovery of how each of us move forward and deal as well. What might we discover about ourselves when we are confronted with such dark subject matter? Essentially, the laughs here are earned best when the audience discovers them as afterthoughts. As in, "Wow, I just laughed at that. I just laughed at that totally disturbing image of a man making what he considers to be 'love' to a goat, and then to compare that love to his love for his wife?! What an interesting way for me to deal with that!" Instead, much of the audience I was mixed in with seemed pretty content with enjoying a night out at the theater as a means of release, rather than an opportunity for discussion or discovery.

    I look forward to seeing future productions of Remy Bumppo's work with fellow patrons who want more than a nice night out at the theater, and who truly want to challenge the artists and production to dig deeper, and in doing so point the limelight at our own lives. Watching well trained actors act in well written scripts is boring. So what was missing from The Goat aside from any sex at all between Martin and Stevie? A curious audience I think. I think all of us were curious to see a play about a goat lover, but not all of us were curious about going too deep.

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