People frequently say we do not deserve dogs. These animals love us unconditionally, offer no judgment and usually bring us more joy than stress. "Sylvia," Starkville Community Theatre’s opening show for the 41st season, perfectly demonstrated the truth behind those sentiments, as well as offered an answer to the question on every dog owner’s mind: what do they think of us?
"Sylvia" by A.R. Gurney focuses on a middle-aged couple who adopt a stray dog, Sylvia, much to the wife's chagrin. Starkville Community Theatre sets the tone of the couple’s apartment by playing soft, mid-century music straight from a record player as soon as the audience enters the theater. The set reflects the aging nature of the characters who inhabit it. Though the play is set in the 1990s, the décor looks older and more conservative. This visual theme of existing in a changing world continues throughout the play and motivates the characters.
The entire cast does a great job, but Trisha Pate, playing the role of Sylvia, is the star of the show. Much of her charisma comes from the physical acting she employs. Bouncing around the stage like an excited dog, it was difficult for people to take their eyes off her since everyone was wondering what she would do next.
Jason Schrock also deserves mention, as he alone makes up the entirety of the three-character supporting cast. Schrock’s opening scene when he discusses the confusing amount of affection we feel for dogs garnered the biggest laugh of the show. Quick costume changes and distinct acting choices make his transition between characters effortless.
There are jumps from a couple’s New York City apartment, to a park bench, to a desolate street late in the evening and back again to the apartment. Scene changes were deliberate and concise, with no one scene dragging out longer than necessary. One scene simultaneously takes place in two separate physical locations. The lighting and direction in this scene are as well-crafted as anything in the entire show.
"Sylvia" was funny throughout, in its honesty regarding the admittedly mundane scenarios a dog forces upon any who try to coexist with it. Honesty toward the surprisingly real love and, at times, fierce frustration people feel toward dogs drives the play.