Years before Edward Albee wrote a play about a man falling passionately in love with a goat named Sylvia, A.R. “Pete” Gurney wrote his comedy Sylvia. It is the first offering of the season on the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Fitzgerald Main Stage in Stockbridge. In this 1995 comic masterpiece, Gurney wrote about a dog who totally seduces the attentions and affection of hard working, middle class husband in one howler of a play. Albee had good reason to honor Gurney with his own homage to anthropomorphism.
So much of Sylvia’s dialogue is a revelation, but the tricks-and-treats scene stands out. Sylvia does a trick. Greg praises her and pops a treat into her mouth. Then he gives the command for a second trick. Sylvia replies, “I’m still eating.”
It proves the old adage that “drama is easy, comedy is hard.” Some may dismiss this glorious evening of nonstop laughs as lightweight entertainment, but beneath all the fun is Gurney’s usual focus on the fantasies and foibles of middle class life.
Getting this outrageously funny story to the stage was not easy for the acclaimed novelist and playwright, and though he is a Williams College graduate, Sylvia has never been done at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. They prefer his heavier and more serious “message” plays. That may change, but until then, bravo to Kate Maguire and the Berkshire Theatre Group (BTG) for filling in the glaring gap.