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Do not miss ‘The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?’ at the Shakes 

Love hurts. It also bleats

click to enlarge PHOTO BY KRISTEN WHEELER, KHPHOTOGRAPHICS
  • Photo by Kristen Wheeler, khphotographics

THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA?

through May 3 | Mandell Theater, Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St. | 407-328-9005 | redchairproject.com | $20

Love hurts. It also bleats, at least if you’re Edward Albee, the great American playwright whose The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? won the Tony for Best Play in 2002. It’s finally getting its Orlando premiere this month at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, and it’s simply one of best local productions you’ll see all year.

A long one-act play presented in three scenes, Albee’s play is the tale of Martin, a successful architect, who cheats on his wife of 22 years, Stevie, with a goat, whom he names Sylvia in a subtle reference to Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Yet, according to Martin, it’s not just about sex – he genuinely feels human love for the animal. And when this love is juxtaposed against their son’s homosexuality and discussions of incest and infidelity, the play, which on the surface seems absurd, turns into a startling realization that though love comes in many forms – including immoral and illegal ones – it is always profound.

The first scene, which is centered on Martin’s confession of his affair to his best friend, Ross, is part comedy, and fittingly so, since the topic is so nutty upon first revelation that one can’t help but laugh. It’s the weakest of the three scenes and takes a while to catch fire, perhaps because Stephen Lima as Ross is slightly less impressive than his three acting counterparts. But he strikes all the right notes later in the play, as do his fellow cast members, when the comedy explodes into full-blown tragedy and we witness the almost total destruction of a loving family. (We also witness the partial destruction of the play’s props, which are hurled around the stage with such abandon as to almost put the audience in fear of minor injury.)

The Goat is directed superbly by Julia Allardice Gagne, with additional direction by Kevin Becker and Seth Kubersky. (Disclosure: Kubersky is a fellow OW writer. However, this reviewer has no direct relationship with him.) The light and breezy set by Tommy Mangieri seems a perfect living room for a successful architect’s family, complete with flowing geometrical shapes, complemented nicely by George Foley’s lighting design. But none of the technical elements really matter much next to the powerhouse performances, and we get those aplenty.

John DiDonna – this is a DiDonna Production – is magnificent. In fact, it’s tough to imagine Bill Pullman, the original Broadway star, being better. He turns the implausible plot into one of the most painful events one could witness. On the other side(s) of that pain, and almost as effective, are Marty Stonerock as Stevie and Steven Fox as their son, Billy. Together, the three handle the difficult material just right and undoubtedly would make Albee himself proud, were the 86-year-old author (probably best known for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) able to attend.

“I don’t think there are any rules for where we are now,” Martin tells Stevie. Well, this is one amorous anarchy you must not miss.

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