Say Hello to Cousin Id

Man-dog love gets the treatment in A.R. Gurney's Sylvia

Of course, most rational, stable people who have seen Sylvia no doubt think I'm joking or just a little disturbed. Really, how could anyone think that such a warm-hearted play could send any other signal but the syrupy platitudes mouthed by its characters? And even if it's true that man is master of this play, Sylvia is her own dog/woman-and she teaches her male master how to live life. And what about the other woman in the play, Kate, the smart, ambitious teacher dedicating her life to helping the urban poor? She is no man's property.

Good points all. And how does Greg feel about his smart, ambitious wife? He all but dumps her. For a dog.

I don't think Gurney set out to write a play that touches, however remotely, on the unstable forces surging beneath the appearances of civility. But I do think that's what the play finally accomplishes. That makes it neither offensive nor dangerous. No matter how much it's analyzed, Sylvia is a silly little play that Middle America will eat up for years; this will probably turn out to be Gurney's most beloved work. Oh, the irony: in a career chronicling well-bred, well-mannered and well-educated families, Gurney may have scored his greatest triumph by tapping into the primitive and vulgar engine that drives even the bourgeoisie.

Sylvia at the Laguna Playhouse's Moulton Theatre, 606 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-ARTS. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. Through Dec. 6. $31-$38.

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