Driftwood Players

"Sylvia" February 1999

By A. R. Gurney, Directed by Gary Morean

Jane Hansen: (Kate) Babe Knuuttila: (Greg) Erica Rostedt: (Sylvia, the dog) David Devine: (Tom, Phyllis, Leslie)

Pictures by
Alan Stamwitz

From The Daily World Friday, February 19, 1999

Driftwood's 'Sylvia' works with talented cast

By Valerie Jester
Contributing Writer

    The new play at Driftwood Theatre is a comedy about a man and his dog and ... er ... his wife.

    Sylvia is a stray pooch found by a man on the verge of male menopause. Although his wife of 20 years puts her foot down about a dog in the house, this guy falls head over heels for his new canine friend. No flashy sports car or torrid affair for this middle-aged businessman, just a scruffy little she-dog who is full of life.

    A.R. Gurney is a prolific playwright whose slice-of-life plays about middle-class America are popular with community theaters (his "Love Letters" was performed here a few years ago). In "Sylvia," Gurney examines a long and happy marriage being challenged by big, but different, changes.

    Director Gary Morean and assistant director Sue Straka have put together a talented cast for this play, including two promising debuts by local students. The set, spearheaded by Morean and Ernie Ingram, is brilliant. Scenes change from penthouse to park to city street with ease and wit. These changes look simple on stage, but the workings are quite sophisticated.

    Babe Knuuttila plays the role of Greg, a former engineer Peter-Principled into an investment job he hates. Rescuing a homeless dog makes him feel like a knight in shining armor and changes the way he looks at the world. Walking with Sylvia in the park reconnects him with his love of nature. Walking with her at midnight on the city streets allows him to meet fascinating people he wouldn't otherwise meet.

    With Sylvia, he comes alive; he feels "real." In a sense, Greg falls in love with his dog. She is everything his life is not--exciting, spontaneous and carefree.

    Knuuttila gives his character depth and never turns this mixed-up guy into a cartoon.

    Kate is a woman enjoying her second life. The kids are in college and she's free at the moment's notice to go off to the theater or weekend in Vermont. She definitely does not want a dog to tie her down.

    Played by Jane Hansen, Kate is a teacher with the very challenging job of teaching Shakespeare at an inner-city junior high. She is cool, collected and above all else, organized -- until Sylvia begins to unravel her nicely arranged life and suitable marriage.

    Hansen is great as she slowly reveals this wife losing her cool and becoming jealous of her husband's dog. The scene where she tells how Sylvia went along on their getaway anniversary weekend is particularly funny.

    Sylvia is a Westie with a large dash of French poodle. She treats Greg rather like a Queen would a vassal (if you've known any Westies, this would ring a bell). Erica Rostedt, a junior at Montesano High School, plays this gymnastic role on all fours much of the time. It is a pivotal role and Rostedt is terrific. This show would be a disaster with a lesser performance.

    David Devine, a student at Grays Harbor College, gives good performances in three small roles. As Tom, a sympatico dog owner, he recommends the book "Your Pooch and Your Partner" to help with Greg's marital troubles. He also plays an old college chum of Kate's (appearing in drag) and an androgynous marriage counselor.

    This show is energetic and full of great physical comedy. Performances run Friday and Saturday nights through March 6, with a matinee on March 7.

From the South Beach Bulletin Thursday, February 25, 1999

Front Row Center With Sally...Sally DeGarmo

"Sylvia" Is A Pedigreed Play!

    What might be the most challenging role an actor can face? Perhaps it's the role of an animal. In this particular case, the animal is a dog. Sylvia is a dog that Greg found (or did she find him?) while he was walking in the park one day when he was supposed to be at work. They seemed destined to meet and bring happiness to each other's lives.

    Now that would be a good to happen if it weren't for Kate, Greg's wife, who most definitely does not want a dog in her life now. Her children are grown and she already "did her time" with family pets. Dogs have to be fed. Dogs have to taken for walks. Dogs chew objects they aren't supposed to chew.  Dogs complicate one's life! And doggie it, dogs need lots of attention and that attention will come from Greg, meaning much less together-time for her and her hubby. Their life together has become a great challenge.

    When Director Gary Morean first read and then saw this play, he knew it was one that would transfer wonderfully to the Driftwood Theater and he was insightfully correct. His use of minimalist sets and props worked very well, just enough but not distracting. Particularly interesting was the way the furniture was moved to and from the stage between scenes and the multiple use of furniture pieces. Hmmm....very clever. Once again, Ernie Ingram and crew did a fine job of set construction and implementation.

    Morean's casting of actors was impeccable. The stand-out for me was Erica Rostedt's role as Sylvia. What a dog! Enthusiastic, noisy, wiggly, loving, cute, funny, smart, manipulating and, occasionally, obnoxious! Sylvia knows what she wants - to stay with her new owner - and she will do whatever it takes to do so.

    Rostedt certainly must have studied "dog" somewhere because she is very convincing. A seventeen-year-old junior at Montesano High School, this is her first speaking part at Driftwood. According to Morean, Rostedt came to rehearsals with all her lines committed to memory. I look forward to seeing her in her next role. Rostedt is very talented.

    David Devine, a sophomore at Grays Harbor College, has appeared in shows at Aberdeen High School and the Bishop Center, but this is his first Driftwood Theater role. Actually, he has not one but three roles in this great play: a male fellow dog owner, a female friend of Kate and an asexual counselor. Devine is a master of facial expressions. Oh, those eyes! He can speak volumes with a look and a word. Devine is a valuable addition to the stable of Driftwood actors.

    Babe Knuuttila as Greg, the husband going through a mid-life crisis that affects both his professional as well as his personal life. His performance is absolutely believable. He's a man who is looking for absolute and unconditional love with no demands being made of him by the object of that love. What better to love, than, but a dog! Humans ask for too much of us. The tale of his "affair" with Sylvia is a journey and we watch it from beginning to end. And how it will end? Though his marriage suffers terribly, will it dissolve?

    Watching Jane Hansen as Kate (Greg's wife and Sylvia's rival) reminded me of a personal friend going through the same marital crisis now. The dog has taken over the household, and eliminated the routine and the relationship she and her husband had together. She wants her husband back! Hansen plays the lonely wife very well.

    One brief word of caution. Although a delightful and funny romp, "Sylvia" may not be suitable for the younger members of the family. Aside from its adult theme, the play is peppered liberally with adult language.

    Four-letter words notwithstanding, this play is a "don't miss!" Future performances of "Sylvia" will be February 26th and 27th and March 5th and 6th with curtain time at 8:15 p.m. and a matinee on Sunday, March 7th at 2:15 p.m.

Home            Driftwood Players Inc.