You don’t have to be a dog lover to enjoy Florida Studio Theatre’s current production of A.R.Gurney’s Sylvia. But those who are will definitely get an extra treat from the show.
FST produced Sylvia once before, and it’s also shown on a community theater stage or two in the past. But it’s been awhile since audiences have had a chance to warm up to this light but touching comedy about man’s best friend.
In this case, the man is Greg (Warren Kelley), a New Yorker working in finance and happily married for more than 20 years, who suddenly finds himself with a dog (that’s the Sylvia of the title, played by the utterly charming Katharine Abbruzzese). Why this dog, why now? He finds himself trying to explain that to his wife, Kate (Rita Rehn), who’s not thrilled about the addition to their empty-nest household, especially at a time when she’s concentrating on her teaching career.
Why does Greg need Sylvia? It’s something about a mid-life crisis, something about getting back to nature and instinct, and something about the eternal bond between man and pooch. Even as Sylvia happily jumps on the furniture, chews on shoes and raises Kate’s blood pressure, Greg is besotted.
Kate Abbruzzese, Warren Kelley and Rita Rehn in Florida Studio Theatre's Sylvia.
You probably will be, too, as Abbruzzese seems a natural playing a dog. (That’s meant as a compliment.) She’s cute as can be whether in her usual “coat” or all glammed up in pink after a visit to the groomer. She can even get away with swearing and fooling around with a male dog in the park. Greg’s love for her is infinite, but it’s a real test of his marriage.
Beyond Abbruzzese, Sylvia has some of Gurney’s deft comedy timing to recommend it, along with nice bits by Jeffrey Plunkett in three separate roles (the most hilarious being a society matron who gets too much physical affection from Sylvia). Kelley and Rehn don’t have much chemistry as the long-married couple, but they’re both good interacting with Sylvia and the marriage counselor (Plunkett) who tries to help them through this bad patch.
In the dog days of summer (yes, I had to get that line in), Sylvia should provide welcome entertainment. The show continues on FST’s mainstage through Aug. 29; call 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.