REVIEW: SYLVIA at the Arvada Center

by Taylor Jo Oxley

Before leaving my home to go to the Arvada Centers production of Sylvia I sent a less than enthusiastic picture to my friends letting them know that I was going to see a show about a labradoodle. Afterwards, however, I sent a full smile photo letting them know how amazing the show was. My expectations were blown out of the water.

Sylvia is absolutely hilarious. Author A.R. Gurney provides a script that gives actors the ability to embellish their characters, play, and
ultimately make the production all their own. Though parts of the play are dated for the society we currently live in (Sylvia first premiered in 1995) the comedy still stands.

Walking into the Black Box Theatre at the Arvada Center, viewers are greeted by an Upper West Side apartment that seems to have taken its inspiration from Frasier. Brian Mallgrave creates an affluent space that is perfect for this story. While the giant painting of the Empire State Building was gorgeous, it was geographically incorrect. Many viewers would not notice, nor would it bother them, but this former New Yorker took a pause with it.

Part of my concern around seeing Sylvia initially was that it would be entirely camp, potentially unbearable. It was definitely campy, but it
wouldn’t have been bearable if it wasn’t. Jessica Robblee portrays of Sylvia embodies everyone’s favorite, and at times least favorite, pooch. Her perfectly animated and articulated body language paired with a bright, inquisitive delivery lines made her the star of the production. That, and the hysterical fight with a cat. The connection she creates with Greg, Gareth Saxe, is warm, loving, and entirely believable. That cannot be said about Greg and wife Kate, played by Kate Gleason.

While the production is based around marital difficulties, the relationship is not believable. Both Gleason and Saxe play their characters
in the style of wasps who went to Ivy League Universities and summer on the Cape. While that should work, it definitely did not. For me, the tone of voice and inflection toward one another was a failure; dramatic, pitchy, and overplayed. For those of you who enjoy Sex and the City you might draw a comparison to the famous “I’m Samantha” line to anytime Saxe speaks Sylvia’s name.

Rodney Lizcano was a savior in his scenes with Saxe and Gleason. He plays dog park acquaintance Tom (presumably) from the Bronx, Upper East Side Phyllis, a friend of Kate, and couples therapist Leslie. Lizcano makes each character unique by taking them to the farthest possible limit. My personal favorite was Phyllis. Lizcano gave us pill dependent, Prada bag, prude housewife realness and I was obsessed.

While not everything was perfect, I wouldn’t want to miss this show. It’s a hilarious production that is relatable to anyone who has furry friends, or partners at home. SYLVIA is playing at Arvada Center now until November 7th. For tickets or more information, visit arvadacenter.org

 

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