SYLVIA

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If you like dogs, I recommend you go see the current revival of SYLVIA, A. R. Gurney’s sweet canine love letter. It’s about a man who is smitten with a dog that annoys the bejesus out of his wife. A lot of the laughs come from the charming Annaleigh Ashford’s embodiment of the dog. Set on New York’s Upper West Side, Ms. Ashford barks (“Hey, hey, hey.”), sniffs and chews her way into our hearts.

It’s tough having a show centered on a expressively limited being, I’m talking about Matthew Broderick not the dog, but he holds his own, if still using his trademark sing-song, whiny delivery. Robert Sella, playing three roles; a man, a woman and a “Pat,” is uniquely funny in every role. I couldn’t help wondering if his “Pat” was patterned on Tommy Tune? Daniel Sullivan’s crisp direction still allows the emotional punch to carry weight. David Rockwell beautifully designs the set, showing both inside the apartment and Central Park.

But the real star of the evening is Julie White. Anyone who has ever seen her on stage can tell you. She’s a magician. She takes the role of the villain and makes her a real person: self-aware when she is being strident and ultimately able to break your heart with pathos. So I guess I have to take that back, if you like dogs OR if you like to see a great actress performing the heck out of a role, go see SYLVIA.

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FOOL FOR LOVE

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If you saw the original production of FOOL FOR LOVE downtown at Circle Rep. or the Fairbanks in the early ‘80s, then you already know the one trick this pony can deliver. Even with two radiant actors like Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell giving it their all, it’s still just a slim piece of a play. You’ve got the set-up of young turbulent love, but once you know the twist, there’s just not much else there. Some wacky, over the top sound and lighting effects and an older gentleman addressing the audience and acting like he stumbled in from another show, but that’s just dressing. The set, appropriately, looks like it’s been held in storage since the original run. The direction is facile, although I dislike it when actresses are asked to strip down and put on stockings as part of their actions. I find it puerile, demeaning and unnecessary. If you haven’t seen the show before or if you are a fan of the cast, then this is pretty much as good as this show will get. Sorry Sam Shepard.

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