Arts and Entertainment

Valley theater offers laughs with ‘Sylvia’ pooch play Center Stage putting on the dog

In Valley Center Stage’s latest comedy, ‘Sylvia,’ JP Giuliotti, as Greg, Stephanie Merrow, as Kate, and Brynne Garman, playing the title character, explore the changes that taking in a stray dog can bring. - Courtesy photo
In Valley Center Stage’s latest comedy, ‘Sylvia,’ JP Giuliotti, as Greg, Stephanie Merrow, as Kate, and Brynne Garman, playing the title character, explore the changes that taking in a stray dog can bring.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

North Bend’s Valley Center Stage is opening their upcoming season with A.R. Gurney’s unique comedy “Sylvia,” a hilarious tale about a man, his wife and the other woman, who in this case happens to be a stray dog.

“Sylvia” tells the story of Greg and Kate, a couple of empty nesters in New York whose lives are going in different directions. One day, Greg meets Sylvia in the park and decides to bring her home with him, much to his wife’s displeasure. Unhappy in his job and struggling with a mid-life crisis, Greg begins to spend more and more time with Sylvia, further angering his wife and risking their marriage. Domestic drama and comedy ensue.

“Sylvia” was first produced in 1995 and featured Sarah Jessica Parker, of “Sex and The City” fame, in the title role. The play was a huge success and is widely regarded as one of Gurney’s better works.

A trio of local actors are tackling the play’s central roles. Spouses Greg and Kate are played by J.P. Giuliotti and Stephanie Merrow respectively, with Brynne Garman handling the four-legged role of Sylvia.

All three actors are enjoying their parts, particularly the different challenges of each role.

“It’s a lot of work, but this is the biggest role I’ve ever had,” Giuliotti said.

For Merrow and Garman, playing outside of their normal comfort zones has been a test of their acting skills and a blessing in disguise.

“I’m enjoying the challenge of a role that I’m not usually cast in,” said Merrow, who’s more familiar with physical comedy, the kind of acting required to play Sylvia.

Garman, who has been offered the part of Sylvia in the past but was never able to take the role, jumped at the opportunity this time around.

“I knew it was a really fun part,” she said.

Much of that fun comes from the schizophrenic nature of the part. At times, Sylvia acts like an everyday dog, jumping on the furniture and scratching fleas. Other times, Sylvia represents the other woman, flirtatious and alluring. It all depends on Greg’s perception of her at the time.

Together, the three actors should be very entertaining to watch as they explore the nature of life, love and man’s best friend.

“It’s just a really strong trio,” Merrow said.

Gary Schwartz, director at Valley Center Stage, is a big fan of Gurney’s work and thinks “Sylvia” is one of his funniest.

“We’ve been having a ball all summer rehearsing this play,” Schwartz said.

The Valley Center Stage has previously produced Gurney’s “Love Letters” and will do so again next Valentine’s Day.

Show times for “Sylvia” are 8 p.m. Sept. 19, 20, 26, and 27. There’s also a special matinee for seniors on Saturday, Sept. 20, made possible by a grant from King County 4Culture. Tickets are available for $15 in advance at www.valleycenterstage.org or at the box office.

A warning, though: “Sylvia” features some adult language and isn’t suitable for children.

North Bend’s Valley Center Stage is located at 119 North Bend Way in North Bend.

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