Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?
Berkshire Theatre Group
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's reviews of The Flamingo Kid and Hold These Truths

Jennifer Van Dyck and David Adkins
Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg
The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?, at Berkshire Theatre Group's Unicorn through June 15th, stretches and boggles the mind. This is a driving, cogent production. Edward Albee's play was first produced in 2002, and the BTG mounting has an acute and contemporary feel to it. Profoundly tragic, yet gleaning an audience's response, also funny, the production digs deep into the souls of its four characters.

Martin (David Adkins) is turning 50, worries about his memory, and seemingly loves his wife Stevie (Jennifer Van Dyck) and their son Billy (Evan Silverstein). An architect, Martin is nervous and distracted. Ross (Josh Aaron McCabe), one of Martin's best friends, comes by to tape an interview for TV. Only Ross is in the room to listen when Martin admits/declares that he has fallen in love with a goat named Sylvia. Calling this a stunner is to seriously understate. Martin hopes to talk about his attraction while Ross wonders just who or what Sylvia is. Martin produces a photograph and Ross goes ballistic. The stage is darkened.

Ross has written a revelatory letter to Stevie, as the play, which has been taking a new direction, now begins to flip even more radically. Martin is already despairing but acknowledges that he loves both Stevie and Sylvia. Stevie is utterly horrified, aghast, violently angered, and absolutely alienated. She cannot imagine. Billy, with his own issues, is immediately tearful and bereft.

Stevie previously thought their marriage was a successful one. These people look good and they have been well educated. Their home (as designed by Randall Parsons) includes comfortable furnishings and nifty artwork. Soon, however, she discovers that her husband is not only having an extramarital affair with a goat but he is also in a group whose members share similar inclinations. Stevie is not shy but exceptionally physical; she expresses her emotions outwardly. Watch out.

Billy is a crier and he continues to be during the final portion of the play. To reveal more of the plot would be overkill. All four characters are visible and Albee's concluding several moments, even after the first 90 minutes, are emotionally jarring.

Eric Hill, a cerebral and versatile director, helms the production with deep perception. Hill, still continuing his career as a gifted actor, has also chaired performing arts divisions at two universities, led a regional theater, written scripts, and directed numerous times across multiple genres. The skilled dramatist is able to tap deeply into many an artistic well. All of this plays to Hill's advantage as he sculpts this Albee. Clearly, Hill's choices delve far beneath the surface of the work. As various theatergoers laughed aloud during a recent performance, it is fair to wonder whether Hill shared that reaction. His take surely seems to be far darker.

In order to realize his vision, Hill taps David Adkins as Martin. Adkins and Hill have often worked together and this collaboration is a winning one. Adkins' Martin is multi-dimensional; his work life has yielded professional prizes and he loves his wife. He is, though, flawed if not deviant. He is smart enough to realize the personal implications but his passion for Sylvia is undeniable and irresistible.

As Stevie, Jennifer Van Dyck's superb performance includes authentic, justifiable fury. This flies in the face of her more typical demeanor—that of a controlled, middle-aged, appealing woman who successfully navigates life. Josh Aaron McCabe, who has performed often in the Berkshires with Shakespeare & Company, is convincing as Ross, the close and honest friend.

The characters grapple and fight for survival: that is the essence of this Albee. The playwright is deft with dialogue and some of his lines, for certain, elicit laughter. That is short-lived and hollow. Stevie wishes she could go back and return to a time when she was ignorant. She claims that Martin is bringing her down, too, and she is accurate. It is all too incredulous, but it is a definite reality. She wails and she is primal and, given the circumstances, all of this fits perfectly as the drama escalates.

The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?, through June 15, 2019, at Berkshire Theatre Group's Unicorn Theatre, 6 East St., Stockbridge MA. For tickets, call 413-997-4444 or visit