Above – Nathan Page and Claudia Karvan. Photo – Matt Byrne

Who is Sylvia? What is she indeed? An extraordinary and amazing play performed splendidly by a first class troupe, which makes for a fabulous night at the theatre – that’s what!  And while it is certainly a wonderful comedy, it is also sub-titled “Notes toward a definition of tragedy” and should not be missed. 10 out of 10!

This remarkable play has been raved about, pilloried, delighted in and misunderstood since its release in 2002. Albee himself said that it was not about bestiality, but about “love, and loss, and the limits of our tolerance and who, indeed, we really are.” That makes it quite a challenge for both audience and actor, as we are pushed to think about what we can’t imagine.  It’s about the intensity of human love which can be beyond emotional, social or personal control.

This cast under the expert direction of Mitchell Butel rises to the challenge absolutely superbly. Nathan Page as  Martin, the 50 year old, happily married architect at the pinnacle of his career, is in full control of the complexities demanded in this particularly challenging role, whether detached and distracted with his best mate, elucidating his love for a goat as well as for his wife, or discovering new levels of understanding of his love for his son, and also in his final despair.

Claudia Karvan is luminescent in the role of Stevie, his faithful, devoted wife, again masterfully portraying a colossal range of emotional expressions from tenderness and lightheartedness to near violent destructiveness, as she discovers the depth of her horror and disbelief at the revelation she is faced with: a place from which there is no turning back.

These two are very reliably supported by Mark Saturno as Ross, Martin’s and Stevie’s best friend turned informer: perhaps the epitome of the normal, or is he a Judas as the antithesis of a best friend? Yazeed Daher as Billy, their gay teenage son is also excellent as he comes to grips with who his father is, and in his final plaintive plea for normalcy which brings down the curtain.

All this intensity is wrapped in superbly written and frequently very humorous language, as repartee, delightful irrelevancies, grammatical correctness and erudition provide plenty of raucous laughter from the rapt audience. Subtle lighting changes by Nigel Levings enhance the emotional content throughout, and Jeremy Allen’s set design provides the perfect upper middle class background of the unfolding and collapse of any pretensions.

There is so much to this play and fabulous production, in which unbelievable meets the unforgivable, and presents such a stimulating challenge. I came away wanting to see it all over again. Do yourself a favour and see it – at least once!

Event details

State Theatre Company South Australia presents
The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?
by Edward Albee

Director Mitchell Butel

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre | King William Road, Adelaide SA
Dates: 10 – 25 February 2023
Bookings: www.statetheatrecompany.com.au

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