Central Alberta Theatre re-introduces Sylvia

Central Alberta Theatre is currently restaging one of their most popular shows of recent years with Sylvia, penned by A.R. Gurney.

The show runs at City Centre Stage through to Feb. 1 with curtain at 7:30 p.m.

It was five years ago that CAT first produced the play, and while it is an unusual story to be sure, it worked well at that time thanks mostly to the actor who plays the central role – the irrepressible and delightful Debby Allan. A CAT veteran, Allan has performed all kinds of roles in all kinds of shows over the years, via CAT and other theatre companies too. She is a joy to watch – always charming, funny, uninhibited and energetic.

In this show, she plays that ‘wonderful, terrible, adorable’ Labradoodle who is back to ‘chew a big hole’ in the marriage of Greg and Kate.

I remember watching Sylvia during its original run (it was directed by Judith Moody as it is this time around as well). Allan shone then as she does now in what must be a uniquely challenging role to play.

Obviously, with a story like Sylvia, there has got to be a certain measure of zaniness injected into the goings-on, and I felt that this time around, with the supporting cast, that wasn’t quite the case. Allan is clearly up to the task, but the other actors never really seemed to muster up the energy or brisk, snappy pacing to keep up with her.

Mind you, that was on opening night – which for many shows isn’t the prime time to see a production. Nerves, minor snags and pacing problems can often get in the way of actors really stepping comfortably into their parts.

As to the story, Kate (Mary Cook), is trying to make it through her husband’s mid-life crisis. She perhaps would have been a tad open to the crazy stuff men do to vainly try and recapture a sense of youth. But when Greg (Craig Scott) finds Sylvia, Kate finds herself in a rather unexpected predicament. First, she isn’t fond of the dog, and is horrified to see her husband’s growing attachment to Sylvia as time passes.

Also, they live a very busy, urban life in a New York apartment. The kids are away at college and her career teaching Shakespeare to inner-city kids is taking off. They certainly don’t need a dog in their life – but Greg won’t budge. He isn’t about to let go of his newfound friend.

Their marriage suffers as a result – they undergo counseling and try to make peace with each other in light of having this ‘third member’ of the family.

Rounding out the cast is Gord Phillips who covers the other three supporting roles.

Meanwhile, part of the problem with the performance is that Cook and Scott play their roles, in my opinion, a bit too straight. More mayhem, more spark, more energy and more outrage would fuel and brighten what happens as the plot unfolds.

But they are likeable, accessible characters just the same. And obviously, it takes courage to hit the stage in any capacity. I particularly admire cast members for tackling this material, which certainly isn’t a conventional kind of comedy, and especially Allan who isn’t afraid to kick back and have lots of fun with her part.

She’s absolutely the heart of the show, and thanks to her, other weaknesses can be largely overlooked. Hopefully the rather guarded approach that got in the way on opening night will fade away as the run continues, and I believe that with a growing sense of security amongst the cast, that will happen.

Tickets are available through the Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre by calling 403-755-6626 or going online at www.blackknightinn.ca.