Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
It also helps that the cast is extremely well-chosen, with especially fine work by the lively Bethany Fitzgerald as the title character. In addition, the intimacy of the stage at Music Theatre of Connecticut is just perfect for a show like this, making audience members almost feel like they are part of the play. This production is a welcome tonic and should provide a great deal of pleasure to just about anyone who sees it.
This good-looking set of a New York City apartment (handsomely designed by Jessie Lizotte) is the ideal setting for this somewhat wacky play to take place in. The first characters we see are Greg (Dennis Holland), the husband who adopts Sylvia, and Bethany Fitzgerald as the canine in question. Holland did wonderful work in Music Theatre of Connecticut's recent production of Ragtime and he is just as good here, taking on an even larger role.
The secret to success for this play is making the actress playing Sylvia seem like an actual dog, and in that department, this production comes up aces. From the moment Fitzgerald takes the stage, wearing an adorable costume (courtesy of designer Diane Vanderkroef), she is able to walk the fine line between acting like dog and personifying Sylvia as a major force in the play. She is larger than life, as well being as cuddly as any pooch, by turns, rowdy, sweet, animated, and extremely lovable. It's not an easy role to pull off, but Fitzgerald's performance is ideal.
Fortunately, the rest of the cast is very talented as well. As Greg's wife Kate, Carole Dell'Aquila acquits herself very nicely playing the sort of heavy in the show: Kate fights her husband at every point about keeping the dog. If at times Dell'Aquila could play the role a bit more strongly, she does quite well and makes the arc her character undergoes seem completely believable. As the fourth performer in the show, the versatile Jim Schilling takes on three drastically different roles, stealing the scene in which he hilariously plays an upper crust socialite named Phyllissomething that truly needs to be seen to be believed.
There is laughter aplenty in this production, but it really helps that we become truly invested in these characters. Director Kevin Connors does a good job with his actors and his design team, including expert lighting designer RJ Romeo, who illuminates the show perfectly. There is also a well-chosen Cole Porter tune that pops up during the show, which gets a big response from the audience.
Sylvia at Music Theatre of Connecticut is simply a lot of fun, as it reaches its unexpected, and touching, conclusion. With Bethany Fitzgerald hopping gleefully around the stage as the title character, to the delight of Greg and to the horror of Kate, it's hard not to become attached to this adorable show. Music Theatre of Connecticut has done quite right by A. R. Gurney's Sylvia and the rewards are plentiful.
Sylvia runs through February 23, 2020 at Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk CT. For tickets and more information, please visit www.musictheatreofct.com or call the box office at 203-454-3883.