Prosperous Dramatic Society present ‘Sylvia’ by AR Gurney

Setting

Setting: New York
Period: Today

Synopsis

Sylvia – a smart, playful, sophisticated and occasionally gritty comedy about relationships, nature, and growing older.
Sylvia tells the entertaining story of an exuberant, lovable dog who changes the lives of a middle-aged couple. Greg and Kate have entered the empty-nest time in life and have moved to Manhattan after 20 years in the suburbs. Greg is struggling with being dissatisfied with his job while Kate is excited about her new teaching opportunities and new-found freedom. Sylvia enters into the middle of their relationship, challenging everything and everyone!

Cast

Sylvia Ashleigh O’Neill
Greg Robert Massey
Kate Zita McGarry Kelly
Tom/Phyllis/Leslie James Murphy

Crew

Director/Producer Lurlene Duggan
Stage Manager Siobhan Keogh
Set Design Paul Kelly
Lighting Ciaran Healy
Sound Claire O’Neill
Backstage Handlers Cyrena Hayes, Lucy Byrne, Emma Keogh, Joy Duggan
Set Construction/Crew Jimmy Grace, TJ Duggan, Peter O’Neill, Brian Moran, Ronan Kelly, Patrick O’Flaherty

About The Group

This small village in Co. Kildare, has a strong tradition of theatre.  The group first won the 1 Act Open All Ireland finals in 1995 with their production of John MacKenna’s ‘Faint Voices’ and since re-joining the circuit in 2009, have participated regularly in 1 Act and 3 Act All Ireland finals. Prosperous won the 1 Act All Ireland finals in 2012 with David Mamet’s ‘Bobby Gould in Hell’ and again in 2012 with Neil LaBute’s ‘Lovely Head’. The group were invited to perform their All-Ireland winning production of ‘Bobby Gould in Hell’ in Monaco at the Mondial du Théâtre.  The group are consistent qualifiers for the 3 act All Ireland finals in Athlone. They held the title of Ulster Champions in 2013 and 2014 with their production of Edward Albee’s ‘The Goat or who is Sylvia?’ and Marc Camoletti’s ‘Boeing Boeing’. In 2015, the group decided to take a break from the circuit and had a successful 10 night run with John Breen’s ‘Alone it Stands’. In 2016 they took the epic ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ on the 3 act circuit, the production placed 3rd in the All Ireland Finals.  The group were thrilled to be awarded the Abbey Theatre award in the 2017 All Ireland finals – it was such a privilege to have the opportunity to bring ‘The Play about the Baby’ to our national theatre for 4 sold out performances.

Summary of Adjudicator’s Comments

Anna Walker ADA began her adjudication by congratulating Prosperous for reaching the All-Ireland finals.  She talked about ‘Sylvia’ originally opening in 1995, and Sarah Jessica Parker (star of ‘Sex and the City’) playing the lead role, and the play being dedicated to her.
Ms. Walker said that Gurney, who died in 2017 wrote about upper class New York people, and was called, “the writer of rich suburbia,”.
“The play was deemed misogynistic and blatantly sexist, but Gurney countered that by saying it had a timely message about a need to connect in an increasingly alien and impersonal world,” said the adjudicator.  “There is a need to connect not only to the dog, but to other people through the dog.”
She said that Greg had lost his inner compass, and Sylvia was absolutely crucial to his salvation.
Also she said that Gurney said of the work, that “if you are true to what you are writing about, the play will have a larger human dimension that people will relate to,”.
“The comedy explores a middle aged man’s crisis, and we are laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, but the truth of the situation must hit home,” said Ms. Walker.  “It’s a most challenging play, and the central character is a dog, but not any dog.  It’s a piece of work.”
She said that the humour and intelligence in the play needs to be expertly woven and it is vital that the director balances the comedy and the serious point that Gurney makes.
“She (director, Lurlene Duggan) needs to deliver both and I felt she absolutely did,” said Ms. Walker.  “Scenes were expertly blocked, highs and lows secured, an excellent use of stage space, transition between scenes, lovely stage pics, and a masterclass of comedy direction.  You really felt that she (Lurlene) made it look effortless tonight.”
The Adjudicator said that she loved the production and said it had a fresh and spontaneous energy to it.
“In the play I felt we had unity of direction, of acting and of design,” she said.  “There are so many memorable moments, including the ‘Everytime We Say Goodbye’ song, and when the two lads were looking at the copulating dogs, it brought us to another place,” she said.   “This was a work of very high calibre, it showed imagination, originality and fed all the senses.”
She commented on the set design, and she also commented on the closed curtains before the start of the play.
“There was an inhalation of breath when the curtains opened, and it (the set) was stylish, chic, and I thought the skyline at night so atmospheric,” said the adjudicator.  “There were high production values, and the sound and lighting was absolutely spot-on, very well judged, and created the mood and the atmosphere.  There was attention to detail with costumes, which was right for the characters.”
Ms Walker said that Kate, who was played by Zita McGarry Kelly was almost the straight woman of the play, but she wondered if at times she (Zita) pushed it too far.
“It was slightly over calibrated, and we felt her exasperation grow, and she got very close to unravelling,” she said.  “I thought the delivery of the line ‘this is not true’ was a masterclass!”
James Murphy played the triple roles of Tom/Phyllis/Leslie, and Ms Walker said that she loved Tom and that he was an idiot, and a macho man who knew it all.
“Phyllis was the ultimate WASP, in the fine prissy sense, and Leslie was excellent as gender fluid, in a polished performance with the hair tossing which was very impressive,” said the adjudicator.
She talked about Greg, and said the challenge of this role for the actor, is not to overplay it, and it’s a man in a mid-life crisis who needs to hold on to something.
“It’s a finely calibrated performance by this actor, who is bewitched by Sylvia. Robert Massey also found the characters inner lonliness and angst. There is also a goodness within this man, and it was located and delivered,” said Ms Walker.
She wondered if he pushed it a little far in the park scene, but that he had great comic timing.
“This man knows how to play an audience,” she said.  “There was a gear change with the character when he spoke about his kids, and when he was planning on giving Sylvia away.  The final scene showed his excellent rapport with the audience and it’s so obvious that he relished being on stage, and gave a most impressive performance.”
Sylvia played by Ashleigh O’Neill was a puppy with an edge, and with great canine energy and physicality.
“She had great eye expressions, and she had great comic timing,” said Ms Walker.  “We should not love her filthy mouth and scheming nature, but we did.  Hasn’t she got the most amazing singing voice?”
The adjudicator commented on other memorable scenes which included Sylvia, including whenever she saw Bowser, and when she was going through the post-op pain, which she said every woman in the audience could understand how she felt.
“She was the Goddess of Carnage here on this stage tonight, and she captured the distilled essence of Sylvia in a ‘tour de force’ performance, and it is an absolute privilege to adjudicate work like that,” said Ms Walker.  “We had a night of magic and mayhem provided by the director and group who are at the very top of their game.”