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Sylvia
 
11/08/2003
The Straits Times
PUPPY LOVE BLEND OF PATHOS & PIZZAZZ
By Hong Xinyi

I Theatre's production of Sylvia is a concoction of charming effervescence, although the underlying pathos of the script is chewed up by the comedic hijinks. Written by American playwright A.R. Gurney, the plot has been transposed into a Singaporean context quite smoothly.

John Faulkner and Bridget Therese play a middle-aged married couple. The husband, Greg, is an architect who is disillusioned with his job, while his wife Kate is getting a second career wind as an academic specialising in Shakespeare.

The tension in their relationship is exacerbated when Greg brings home a stray dog, Sylvia.

He soon becomes completely enraptured by the mutt's worshipping devotion to him, to Kate's increasing ire.

Chae Lian acquits herself admirably as the sassy Sylvia, her petite frame charged with a perky energy that makes her canine a truly endearing character.

The relish with which she enacts the less cuddly aspects of a dog is hilarious: being in heat is conveyed with a squirmy delight, and there are some spirited vulgarities regarding cats probably resulting in the play's NC-16 rating.

But it is erstwhile Fame Awards winner Sean Yeo who steals the show playing three characters: the dog-obsessed Tom who commiserates with Greg on the woes of handling mutts and mates, Kate's tai-tai friend whose husband has a similar penchant for goldfish, and a new-age marriage counsellor with the most effective use of emphatic hand gestures seen this side of the Boom Boom Room. Singapore's new Kumar, perhaps?

But because of the cast's excellent comedic energy, the play's subtext about the frustrations of marriage and being middle-aged is subsumed.

What makes Greg and Kate tick as a couple never seems to come into focus, despite the comfortable chemistry between Faulkner and Therese.

Perhaps the scene that best conveys this play's blend of pathos and pizzazz is the one where Sylvia and Kate have a heart-to-heart talk about love.

It seems fitting that the two characters who are Shakespearean namesakes - Sylvia is a character from Two Gentlemen Of Verona, while Kate is the titular female in The Taming Of The Shrew - inhabit this moment of dramatic sizzle.

As in the Bard's best comedies, one never doubts the certainty of Sylvia's resolution: All's well that ends well.