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The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? by The Theatre Guild - Review

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by Haydn Radford (subscribe)
Haydn Radford -A freelance writer born in Adelaide, who loves living here. I write about movies, theatre, entertainment, literary and art events. I am happy to promote & review your events.
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Photo courtesy The Theatre Guild.

In its 80th Anniversary year, the Theatre Guild performs Edward Albee's tragic comedy play, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia at the Little Theatre. In 2002, it won the Tony Award for Best Play.

American playwright Albee is known for his successful plays Three Tall Women and his emotionally charged masterpiece, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, with its frank and brutal language between a married couple in an explosive relationship. Both plays have been successfully performed by The Guild.

Gary George, Rachel Burfield and Benjamin Quirk - Courtesy of Theatre Guild

The Goat, or Who is Sylvia provides further insight into another marital relationship being destroyed as it questions love and lust and sexual morality. Martin (Gary George), a well-known American architect is celebrating his 50th birthday and winning the profession's prize to design "The World City" in the Kansas wheat fields. He enjoys a loving relationship with his wife, Stevie (Rachel Burfield) and their gay son, Billy (Benjamin Quirk). While all seems well with Martin's life, he shows signs from the play's outset he is troubled by something. In a television interview with his oldest friend, Ross (Peter Davies), Martin reveals his anxiety is the result of his continuing adulterous affair with a goat called Sylvia, which he has fallen in love with, physically and spiritually. Shocked at Martin's confession and out of concern for his two friends, Ross discloses Martin's shameful secret to Stevie.

Gary George and Peter Davies. Photo courtesy of Theatre Guild

What follows is a tragi-comedy which raises some bleak, explosive questions and conflict for the audience along with some confronting and scorching sarcastic, grim humour as it deals with the primal taboo of bestiality. There is a key moment when Ross revolted by Martin's disclosure asks, "Is there anything you people don't get off on?" Martin replies in a calm manner, "Is there anything anyone doesn't get off on, whether we admit it or not?" The initial audience response varies from shock and indignation to incredulous laughter as Albee explores the uncontrollable nature of human sexuality.

Director Matt Houston's production provides gripping insight into the feelings and unmentionable thoughts of what appears to be an ordinary family torn apart and facing an unfathomable situation as their world comes crashing down. The acting by the four performers, Rachel Burfield, Gary George, Peter Davies and Benjamin Quirk, is outstanding as they provide convincing complex characters with varying interactions from aggressive clashes to surprising humorous exchanges. Houston takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster ride. Rachel Burfield as Stevie is exceptional as she delivers many humorous moments, along with plate-smashing wrath and moments of vicious tongue-lashings to Martin: "Be careful who you fall in love with, be careful who you marry - You have broken something that can't be fixed. Stopping has nothing to do with starting - You have brought me down - I will bring you down. You destroy me. I destroy you."

There is considerable aggression displayed as tensions emerge when Stevie explodes into a rage as she continually destroys the living room. Her aggression is totally understandable and believable. However, some may find the continuous aggression uncomfortable. Even though there are many powerful, humorous and intriguing moments, some may feel Albee has pushed the boundaries of uncontrollable sexual excitation too far for some audiences.
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Why? An entertaining adults only play that may raise questions for some that they may not wish to confront.
When: Sat 4, Wed-Sat 8-11 & 15-18 August 2018 at 7.30pm and Sun 5 August 2018 at 4pm
Phone: Theatre Guild office on 8313 5999 or email
Where: Little Theatre, The Cloisters (off Victoria Drive, gate 10), University of Adelaide. Ticket machine in Cloisters parking area. WE RECOMMEND YOU ALLOW EXTRA TIME FOR PARKING WHEN THERE IS AN EVENT ON AT ADELAIDE OVAL. Cost: SPECIALLY REDUCED 80TH ANN
Cost: SPECIALLY REDUCED 80TH ANNIVERSARY TICKET PRICES: $22 Full / $18 Concession. Online: (fee applies) Tickets at the door subject to availability Group Bookings:10 at concession rate
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