Thursday, November 16, 2017


James Karas

Happy families are all alike, according to Leo Tolstoy, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Take the Gray family. At age 50, Martin is a successful architect who has won the Nobel Prize equivalent in his field and has been chosen to design The World City, a two-hundred billion project in the wheat fields of the Middle West. His world success is matched by his happy home life. He is married to Stevie who is beautiful, articulate and in short a dream wife. They are deeply in love with each other and completely faithful. They have a gay son which may or may not be an issue for them but everything about the Grays’ success is practically mythical.

But there is a flaw in the ointment. A flaw that Albee wants us to know goes beyond a passing mortal sin like infidelity or one of the frequently encountered problems in a marriage. The parenthetical subtitle of the play is “Notes towards the definition of tragedy.” Early in the play Martin refers to the Eumenides as pursuing someone relentlessly. They are the furies of vengeance in Greek tragedy who pursue most famously Orestes for the killing his father.

  Raquel Duffy and Albert Schultz, photo: Cylla Von Tiedemann

The flaw in the ideal marriage of the Grays is that Martin is in love with a goat. Albee raises the admittedly carnal relationship to something spiritual and out of the control of Martin. If you want to be grandiloquent, it may refer to Aristotle’s idea hamartia, a fatal flaw or an error in a character that leads to a reversal of fortune and a tragic end.

Alan Dilworth directs the current Soulpepper production which has some issues but brings much of the drama out. Rquel Duffy gives a bravura performance as Stevie, Martin’s wife who understandably freaks out when he gives her a detailed description of his physical and spiritual relationship with the goat Sylvia. Stevie, always articulate, frequently witty, goes from shock to rage to avenging fury punctuated with agony at the incomprehensible treachery that she faces. It is a tremendous range for an actress to cover and Duffy does it all. From disbelief, to sarcastic remarks to a heart-wrenching howl, Duffy gives a stunning performance.
 Albert Schultz and Derek Boyes, photo: Cylla Von Tiedemann
Albert Schultz as Martin is fine in the lighter portions of the play but he fails to rise to the tragic dimension demanded of the character. His reaction and his howl as he is destroyed by the avenging fury fails to reach the heights that we hope to see.

Derek Boyes plays Ross, the friend of the family who tells Stevie what her husband has done. Paolo Santalucia plays Billy, the Grays’ teenage son who has his own sexual problems but with his father madly in love with a goat there is not much room to examine them. Boyes and Santatlucia give good performances in their respective roles.
Dilworth does a good job in directing a difficult play but there seems to be a lack of disciplined acting in some of the scenes. Some more intonation in some scenes, a slower pace in others may be of minor nature but it would be nice to have them.

The set by Lorenzo Savoini shows a brightly lit sitting room with a couch, a coffee table and some furniture pieces that evoke the home of a well-off modern house.       

The Goat or Who is Sylvia? by Edward Albee continues until November 18, 2017 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto, Ontario M5A 3C4.

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