Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Goat, or who is Sylvia? - a Review

Last night I had the opportunity to go to the theater in Calgary. Friends suggested joining them for a play. Not knowing what to expect, I signed up and bought a ticket. In retrospect the "not knowing what to expect" bit turned out to be the chance of the day not to be missed. Would I have so readily agreed to go had I known what the play was about? Probably, but then again, maybe not.

For the play was Edward Albee's 2002 prize winning The Goat, or who is Sylvia?.

Albee forces us to stretch the limits of our liberal ideals with a plot that includes bestiality, homosexuality and a hint of incest thrown in for good measure. On top of that, the cast includes what seems to be a perfectly functional family that isn't, a highly educated family that also uses its combined intelligence to hurl vectives around like china (and the china is thrown too).

In a nutshell - Very successful architect admits to his best friend that he is having an affair with a goat. Best friend writes a letter to the architect's wife revealing all. Architect's wife hits the roof in an intellectually driven desire to understand. Their gay son intervenes from time to time to add another dimension. The story ends as dramatically as it begins.

I found myself wanting to believe that the architect wasn't really goat f***ing (the play doesn't use asterisks) but that he was misunderstood. But the plot wouldn't let me take the easy road out of the situation and I began to realize, reluctantly, that the man was serious, worse, that he could see nothing wrong with his activities. Yet he was quite the critic when it came to his own son's homosexuality.

The wife/mother raises the atmosphere to screaming pitch with several crescendos that are accompanied by a lot of furniture tossing and china smashing. Her graphic description of how she feels about sharing her husband with a goat finally seemed to break down her husband's profession of innocent love. But she fled the house before he could attempt reconciliation.

The rest of the play, leading up to the finale, I will not reveal here. It would be unfair on any unsuspecting theater-goer to know the ending.

The acting was excellent, all four characters being well cast. The set and lighting were appropriate - a rather nice arts and crafts style room with the usual stained glass window treatments, etc. I will admit to being both affronted and entertained. Perhaps exactly what Albee intended?