Hampton Theatre Provides on the Animal Act

Catherine Maloney as Kate and George Loizides as Phyllis in A.R. Gurney’s “Sylvia”

“Sylvia,” a engage in by A.R. Gurney from 1995, opens with a center-aged man remaining followed about a New York condominium by a youthful girl. Her gait is a unusually hunched more than, and often she appears to be to gallop as she walks. She tells the person she loves him, phone calls him “God,” and states that he has saved her everyday living. She rubs her cheek in opposition to his lap whilst he pets her head, telling her she’s a “good girl.” 

For audience customers who you should not know the conceit of “Sylvia,” your initially inclination, no question, is to feel that you are witnessing a psycho-sexual connection in between a center-aged gentleman and his youthful mistress. 

What is odd and first about the perform is that even just after you discover that the youthful lady is basically a pet he’s discovered on the street (personified by an actress), your inclination will not be totally improper. 

“Sylvia,” which operates as a result of June 13 at the Hampton Theatre Firm in Quogue, is the first production in in excess of a yr for this reliable firm. The viewers for the performance I witnessed was smaller — 50 percent the seats have been unsold for the reason that of social distancing — but you could truly feel a palpable aid in the air that just after a yr of tv burnout they were last but not least finding to see a stay general performance.

Even this overlong, from time to time lugubriously paced drama-comedy could not shake the fantastic mood. 

The premise is ingenious: the introduction of a stray pet dog as a wedge to expose the difficulties of a tottering middle-aged New York pair. Greg, who works in finance, finds the animal abandoned and feels an prompt, virtually obsessive bond. Maybe this is due to the fact he has missing his relationship to Kate, his spouse of 20-additionally decades. Even more aggravating things, her job as an educator appears to be to be booming, when Greg is deeply unsatisfied with his perform. Kate wishes the puppy absent from their condominium, but Greg pleads for a handful of days’ demo with the animal, and his spouse relents. 

Amanda Griemsmann as Sylvia the canine, in rehearsal for “Sylvia” onstage in Quogue. Tom Kochie

As Sylvia, Amanda Griemsmann throws almost everything into what is approximately an unachievable part (interestingly, Sarah Jessica Parker performed the section in the play’s Off Broadway premiere 26 many years in the past). She hops close to, palms curled into paws, rolls on her back, pants, barks, and, most hilariously, screams obscenities when she spots a cat. That Sylvia can converse with human beings is a little bit of magical realism that would seem odd at very first, but quickly becomes no stranger than the reality that the pet is portrayed by a lady. 

Ms. Griemsmann’s overall performance is the most thriving in a perform that, to this viewer at least, has some pacing challenges. Diana Marbury, who has directed some of the most effective H.T.C. plays about the past handful of decades, permits matters to operate at a deliberate, laconic velocity, and as a result the dialogue seems to deficiency the crackle and pop of excellent comedic timing. 

It doesn’t aid that Gurney’s enjoy is basically as well long, slowly but surely wresting out his metaphors about the complications of human connection. Kate, for case in point, has an chance to educate in England for a semester and needs Greg to appear with her. Dogs are not permitted, even so, and so Greg, in whole midlife crisis mode, announces that he cannot go. Of course, he feels his spiritual emptiness is obtaining extra convenience from the pet than his imperious spouse.

Even the most naive viewer will see this previously. But Gurney’s participate in delivers Kate and Greg to a psychiatrist (properly played by George Loizides, who does triple responsibility in this article with two other roles), entirely so the health practitioner can make clear almost everything to the viewers. 

Edward Circumstance, as Greg, is an exceptionally likable actor, but neither he nor Catherine Maloney, who performs Kate, are solely convincing as an uber-sophisticated Manhattan few, the variety who are frequently referring to content articles they examine in The New Republic and The New Yorker. This is no tiny matter, as element of Gurney’s position right here is that for all their literary intelligence, the answer to their emotional disaster is out of access — apart from most likely via Sylvia.

We don’t come to feel that believability in these performances, and this is most problematic in Ms. Maloney’s Shakespearean asides to the audience, which are delivered with out the fluid, pretentious flair with which they are meant. 

Of program, these are great actors who, by means of no fault of their very own, have not been ready to training their abilities in more than a 12 months. A little bit of rust ought to almost certainly be expected. And there are, intermittently, a good deal of laughs to be experienced in this production.

“Sylvia” primarily succeeds as a amusing, insightful seem at modern interactions. 

And finest of all, it can be reside!