Sylvia is a cute fantasy about a talking stray dog working her way into the hearts of her new owners. She may not understand all Greg says to her, but her loving looks as she listens are more rewarding to him than conversation. The question is whether she will ever be able to persuade Greg’s wife, Kate, to return a little of the love she has to give.
Either viewed through Sylvia’s eyes or through those of the sparring humans, Gurney’s charmer is about relationships. After all, agreement on pet acquisition, as well as whether or not to have kids or where to live, can make or break a relationship.
Along the way to deciding Sylvia’s fate, the appealing Ottawa Little Theatre production, directed with precision and joy by Chantale Plante, offers much to laugh at and greater depth than some might expect from a first glance at the subject matter.
Emily Walsh, in the title role, is a delight as the doggy heroine, incorporating numerous doglike gestures and sniffs, while Paul Williamson is comfortable and comforting as her adoring owner.
Amanda Jonz, as Sylvia’s antagonist and Greg’s wife, must cope with the less attractive task of demonstrating recurring hostility to the engaging new resident. She appears more at ease in interacting with her husband and her crazy therapist.
In the triple role of therapist, dog park acquaintance, and female friend, the always reliable Lawrence Evenchick offers some of the funniest moments of the evening.
A further humorous highlight is the rendering of Every Time We Say Goodbye sung by Sylvia, Greg, and Kate.
On the technical side, Graham Price’s excellent set, complete with a fire hydrant, allows for smooth scene changes, while Cameron Macdonald’s lighting design and Guylaine Roy’s costuming of Sylvia are also very effective.
Altogether, the OLT production of Sylvia is a highly entertaining pleasant evening of theatre. Four paws up.
This article first appeared in Capital Critics’ Circle on September 14, 2018, and has been reposted with permission.