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Bainbridge Performing Art’s ‘Sylvia’: Fogell sneaks us a treat
The universe abhors a vacuum, so when BPA creative director Steven Fogell noticed an open weekend on the calendar, he set about filling it. He searched for a tasty treat to tide us over between “Grapes of Wrath” and the upcoming “Man of La Mancha.” What he found was the spirited comedy, “Sylvia,” about an upper East side couple trying to fill an empty spot of their own.
With their children gone off to college, Kate (Kim Failla) nurses a cocktail of contempt and confusion over her husband Greg’s (John Ellis) lack of ambition. Filling the empty nest void with a new career, Kate is shaken and stirred when Greg finds a new companion – and brings her home. After ducking out of work early – again – Greg falls for the fetching – literally – Sylvia (Bronsyn Foster Springer), an adoring and adorable lab/poodle stray.
Here, the play chases it’s own tail in a lover’s triangle of tangled fun.
“It’s a perky comedy,” Fogell said. “By far the funniest thing we’ve done in a while.”
Once Fogell found the material, the search was on for a cast who could pull off the waggish parts in short order.
Failla plays Kate dry as the martinis she’s fond of – in turns seething and dismissive – responding to being displaced as her man’s best friend.
“It could be anything she doesn’t like,” Failla said of her disdain. “It doesn’t have to be a dog.”
As co-founder of Bainbridge’s longstanding improv troupe The EDGE, Ellis is used to making his lines up as he goes along. When Fogell handed him the 75-page dialogue-driven script, he took a big gulp.
“I’m glad I can saddle up and learn this much dialogue and not be a heaving, sobbing mess lying in the fetal position.”
Still, he knows what he’s up against.
“I have the most lines; I’m the protagonist, but no one is going to remember my part,” he said. “We’ve got a man in a dress and a woman playing a dog.”
Oh, right - the man in the dress. That would be the droll Todd Erler who gets out of the box with not one, but three off-beat parts of varying genders.
“It’s a silly play,” Erler admits.
But the play’s name says it all: Sylvia pulls off the poodle sensibility with her pink skirt, matching bows, angora sweater and an animated wag. The physicality of Springer’s part – jumping, rolling, wagging – requires an athleticism not to mention an exhausting level of enthusiasm.
“I had to let go of human motivation and think from a dog’s motivation,” Springer said backstage, wearing an uptown dog collar around her neck.
The play is rated PG-13 for adult language and humor. In other words, it’s doggone #!&$@% hilarious.
Short run, lotta wag
Sylvia is directed by Steven Fogell and runs one weekend only at BPA April 22 – 25. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for seniors, students, military and teachers. This play contains adult language and is suitable for PG-13 audiences. For more information, visit www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org, or call 842-8569.