Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011

Details Get In The Way

Another Respectably Good Show For Which I Lack Enthusiasm

By Russ Bickerstaff
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I love theatre . . . I wouldn’t be reviewing shows if I didn’t. I go out with every intention of enjoying a show, but sometimes going out on a Saturday night feels more like work. And . . . as was the case with Next Act’s production of Sylvia . . . there really isn’t anything about the show that I specifically disliked. A.R. Gurney’s story of a man who takes-in a dog named Sylvia is fun, light comedy. Next Act lives up to its high standards of quality. There’s a largely good cast. But there were all kinds of little details that kept me from having a good time. So while there was nothing specifically wrong with it, I didn’t love it.

A.R. Gurney’s script gets into the psychology behind the love of pets in general and dogs in particular. The thing is . . . I haven’t been able to find much insight in the script beyond the obvious, surface-level stuff. Having seen it once in a previous production, I didn’t find much here to enjoy again. I don’t particularly like dogs, though I don’t particularly dislike them, so that might be part of the problem. If you love dogs, you will love this show. You may even want to see it more than once . . . it’s fun. The first production of Sylvia I saw at the Sunset Playhouse. It was fun . . . but I haven’t really had that much fun with it since.

Not that the cast wasn’t good here . . . I guess the appeal in seeing ahuman play a dog kind of lost its novelty for me after the first production I’d seen. And the set is beautiful ad everything, but . . . this is a show quite firmly rooted in New York . . . in places the script is VERY very New York. And the set has this really beautifully abstract skyline behind it, but the blocky colors mixed for me in a way that was very, very reminiscent of the American Southwest . . .which was really kind of weird for me . . . because here we’ve got Ryan Schabach putting in a fun, iconic performance as a guy with a deep accent out of New York and I’m looking at the blocky colors in the skyline and all I can think of is Albuquerque. We’re supposed to be in an urban park and all I can think of is the mesa . . . which is really disorienting. And little details like that keep me from enjoying what really is a very solid production of a fun show. If you love dogs and you haven’t seen it, don’t let my hang-ups keep you away . . . but sometimes its hard to be as enthusiastic in a theatre review as a show probably deserves . . .

 

Next Act’s production of Sylvia runs through December 18th. For ticket reservations, call 414-278-0765. A generally positive review of the show runs in the next Shepherd-Express.

 

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