The classic mid-life crisis plot does not come close to the troubling revelations exposed in Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, currently being presented by Interrobang Theatre Project in their new home at Rivendell Theatre. Penned in 2002 and skyrocketed to immediate success, this tragi-comic play explores the emotional upheaval of a family coping with their 50 year old patriarch’s confession that he’s sleeping with Sylvia--no, not a hot young 20-something--a goat.
What initially sparks jokes about feed stores and grooming quickly turns into an intense, emotional drama that questions the arbitrary nature of social norms. But Albee’s play, while brilliantly crafted, is a difficult undertaking. The quick transitions between mirth and melancholy--not to mention the mere task of identifying which moments should be played as which--are an arduous task for any theatre company and, while Interrobang has instances of capturing that perfect balance, much of the play feels disconnected.
The opening scene, for instance, in which Martin (Tom Jansson) reveals the details of his love affair to friend and colleague Ross (Armando Reyes) struggles with its pacing and tone. Reyes jumps back and forth appropriately between amused and terrified, but the beats between these moments fail to land--they are, for the most part, much too drawn out. A quintessential moment, Martin’s first mention that Sylvia is a goat, also has both characters facing away from the audience, and the impact of the statement therefore loses much of its resonance.
As Martin’s infuriated and baffled wife Stevie, Elana Elyce instills much-needed energy and faster pacing to her scenes, but the timing ultimately becomes upset again when the plot’s tension increases; the drawn out emotions slow down the play dramatically in a way that renders nothing dire instead of everything.
Like Elyce's performance, the technical elements of the production also stand out. Scenic designer Kerry Lee Chipman expertly utilizes the small space to its full potential, creating a set that immediately establishes Martin and Stevie’s put-together, previously pristine lifestyle before it all, of course, emotionally and physically begins crumbling.
Interrobang’s production is, overall, one worth seeing, specifically for those unfamiliar with the play. But it doesn’t quite capture the wit, the humor, and ultimately, the tragedy, that The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? demands.
Somewhat Recommended ★★✩✩
Review by Emily Schmidt
The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? continues through October 6. More info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreInChicago's Review Round-Up.
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