by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
The Douglas Anderson School of the Arts of Jacksonville presented a three-day run beginning September 26 in their Black Box Theatre of A. R. Gurney’s 1995 romantic comedy about a man and his dog and the effects of their friendship on his marriage.
Corporate executive Greg (CONNOR DRISCOLL) is about to lose his job, because he is unhappy with his assignment. He is brooding in Central Park when a stray dog named Sylvia (it says so on her collar) comes up and it is love at first lick. He brings the dog home.
Greg’s wife Kate (JACKIE JONES) is less than thrilled. They moved to the city after raising their children and sending them off to college, and Kate does not want a pet that requires care and certainly does not want a rival for her husband’s attention and affection.
Sylvia’s doggone presence around the house soon affects what is left of his job (he loses it) and causes a lot of anxiety in the marriage. But you can hardly blame Greg for falling in love with this canine, played by a human in the person of SADE SANTOS. She is already as cute as a playful puppy, but add those big brown eyes and shaggy hair and she could pass for an AKC registered poodle anytime. Ms. Santos does not wear a dog costume and although she occasionally barks, she mostly talks. She also romps in the park, sniffs the grass for messages, upsets Kate by repeatedly jumping on the couch, and completely mesmerizes Greg with her devotion.
Kate’s girlfriend Phyllis (EMILY SIMMONS) comes over and offers her advice about the dog. But she isn’t in any position to be objective, since her husband is so obsessed with his goldfish that he shares the bathtub with them when he bathes.
While walking in the park one day, Greg encounters a macho dog walker, Tom (PAXTON SANCHEZ) and his dog Bowser. Tom offers his advice, comparing dog and human traits in a humorous way.
The final hilarious character arrives in Act II. Leslie (ZACH IGNACIO) is an ambiguous figure, a therapist, who lets the patients chose a gender for him during counseling sessions.
Jackie Jones as Kate is excellent as she plays the heavy in this role. After all, she says her husband is just going through male menopause; she wants no part of the dog that she calls “Saliva,” and she blames her for “eating a hole” in their marriage.
Connor Driscoll as Greg plays this role with just the right temperament and is a very believable character.
The three principal characters sing together to a recording of the 1944 classic song, “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” All had good singing voices.
The show was set in a spacious, tastefully furnished New York apartment with the skyline as a center of attraction. Central Park (complete with artificial grass) is a separate area on the left, set against towering skyscrapers; a bench depicts an airport waiting area. No one is credited with the set design but we are sure that Director BONNIE HARRISON and Technical Director CRAIG CAIN were involved.
Bonnie Harrison’s direction kept this a fast-paced show, with excellent characterizations and projection by the entire cast. A.R. Gurney wrote two versions of this play and we are glad Ms. Harrison chose the one without the unladylike language for the dog. We had seen the R-rated version previously, and did not like it.
We are not revealing the ending, since this play remains very popular and you will likely have the opportunity to see it in the future. We give this fine production three Paws, and three Tail Wags, another example of the superb theatrical productions done by Douglas Anderson.
Coming up in November is “Ragtime, The Musical,” which is sure to be a sellout, so mark November 21 – 24 on your calendar.
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM