Remaining shows

WHAT: “Sylvia”

WHO: Community Little Theatre

WHEN: June 19, 20, 21 & 22. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Great Falls Performing Arts Center, Academy Street, Auburn

TICKETS: $15. To order tickets, call the CLT box office at 783-0958 or log on to

‘Sylvia’ CLT director grooms canine caper to perfection

AUBURN – “Sylvia” is a delightfully funny, inventive and ultimately insightful play about a man, his wife and the dog who comes between them.

The laughs come thick and fast from the onstage antics of an excellent Community Little Theatre cast. Eileen Messina directs “Sylvia” for a run that continues through the coming weekend.

Although “Sylvia” overflows with clever action and dialogue, there is also some depth to this very unusual romantic triangle. Author A.R. Gurney makes some penetrating points about a mid-life crisis and a marriage that’s both threatened and saved by man’s best friend.

Liz Rollins gives an outstanding performance as Sylvia, the lab-poodle mix who’s found in Central Park. Rollins pulls it off with just the right amount of athleticism and unconditional adoration for her newfound master.

Roger Philippon plays Greg, a man who’s becoming dissatisfied with an unexciting job and a life he feels is not quite “real.” With blind enthusiasm, Greg brings the lost dog home to a wife who is dead set against being tied down with the responsibilities of a dog now that their children are grown and gone.

Karen Lane, who plays Greg’s wife, Kate, is a newcomer to the CLT stage, but she has extensive community theater experience.

She puts her foot down – no dog. But she is barking up the wrong tree as Greg and Sylvia, lost in their own world of mutual adoration, turn a deaf ear to her.

For Greg, this wonderful creature that has now entered his life becomes an obsession. On walks to Dog Hill in Central Park, Greg meets Tom, another dog owner who is savvy to the psychological pitfalls of an unwanted pooch in the household. Despite her devotion to Greg, Sylvia can’t resist the attentions of Tom’s dog Bowser (not seen on stage).

Jason Pelletier plays Tom with a macho swagger mixed with philosophical tendencies. It’s a good characterization.

Kate becomes increasingly disturbed as Sylvia settles in as a resident of the New York apartment, so she plots to obtain a teaching assignment in England for six months, and quarantine regulations would mean Sylvia would not be allowed to go.

Along the way to eventual acceptance, Kate goes through some hilarious confrontations with Sylvia.

This is the kind of play that makes every audience appreciate the skill and talent that only a live cast can deliver on the stage. On film or video, all kinds of tricks and computer generated graphics might be used, but nothing would match the fun of seeing people act and react to a dog in human form.

Rollins is the typical hyperactive mongrel that yips a “Hey, Hey, Hey” to everyone. Her canine body language is uncanny, whether biting at fleas, sniffing the furniture or resting her head on Greg’s knee.

Sylvia talks, too, but only when she’s alone with either Greg or Kate. That’s when they share their innermost thoughts of love or dislike.

Philippon’s role is delivered with every bit as much distinction as that of Rollins. It requires a precise sense of timing to interact with the sounds and movements of someone playing a dog.

Kate’s friend Phyllis is portrayed by Pat Phillips. She does a good job as the socialite who’s always in control, until Sylvia shows her who is boss.

On opening night, Michael Littlefield played Leslie, the psychiatrist of ambiguous gender. It’s a clever part, well done by Littlefield, that helps make the point of how roles in relationships can become confused.

“Sylvia” is not a show for kids. There’s a pretty liberal dose of strong language. When Sylvia becomes excited at the appearance of a cat, she lets loose with a string of profanities that would make a pirate blush. She’s not timid in letting Kate know just how she feels, either.

It’s not all full-tilt action. There are tender moments, including a unique trio rendition of Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” Some original incidental music was written and recorded for the show by Paul G. Caron.

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