Friday, October 16, 2015

Sylvia ***

Twenty years after its debut at Manhattan Theatre Club, A.R. Gurney’s charming but inconsequential play has finally made it to Broadway. It presents the playwright in a much more favorable light than any of the three Gurney plays that Signature recently mounted. Annaleigh Ashford’s performance as the eponymous canine is sheer delight, reason enough to see the show. As Greg, the man with a midlife crisis who is instantly smitten with Sylvia when she plops into his lap in Central Park, Matthew Broderick is the best he has been since “The Producers.” The ever-watchable Julie White strikes all the right notes as Greg’s wife Kate, who does not want a dog to upset their newly-empty nest or her budding career as a teacher bringing Shakespeare to uptown middle school students. Robert Sella is a triple threat as Tom, another dog owner in Central Park; Phyllis, Kate’s friend from Vassar days whose struggle to stay on the wagon is threatened by Sylvia’s enthusiastic attentiveness; and Leslie, the androgynous couple counselor Kate and Greg visit. As Sylvia becomes more entrenched and gets more attention from Greg than his wife does, a showdown looms. I’m sure you can guess the outcome. The play’s conceit is really too slender for a work that runs over two hours, but director Daniel Sullivan does an excellent job of hiding that. The triple casting of Sella is droll, but seems cut from a different cloth than the rest of the play. David Rockwell’s set offer a lovely scene of Central Park with the essentials of a park-view apartment that materialize when needed. Ann Roth’s costumes are excellent; the ones for Sylvia are truly inspired. You may forget the play five minutes after it ends, but you will likely enjoy it while you're watching it. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes including intermission. 

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