Hippo Manchester
September 22, 2005

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Playing with man’s best friend

Nashua Theatre Guild to present A.R. Gurney’s Sylvia

By Michelle Saturley 

“Love me, love my dog.” It’s not just a bumper sticker; it’s a way of life for some people. But what if a dog comes between a man and wife — who goes, and who stays?

That’s the premise of A.R. Gurney’s play, Sylvia. Nashua Theatre Guild will present the show this weekend at the 14 Court Street Theater. Directed by Kevin Riley, this four-person comedy tells the story of Sylvia, a loveable, needy stray dog (played by a human actress Andrea Kalinowski) taken in by a businessman on the cusp of a mid-life crisis. Things are great between Sylvia and her new master Greg (played by Alan McPherson), and man and beast connect immediately. But Greg’s wife Kate (played by Andrea Defeo), a stuffy English teacher, isn’t much of an animal lover. Who will prevail — the dog or the wife? You’ll have to come see the show to find out the answer.

What’s different about the show is that Sylvia the dog (who, in case you’re wondering, is a Labrador/poodle mix) can understand and communicate with the people in her life. The actress playing the role dresses like a human instead of donning a dog costume. While the role calls for the actress to display some doglike character traits — for instance, unconditional worship of her master, the need for affection and the instinct to guard her territory — the role doesn’t require any over-the-top canine activity such as barking, scratching or biting. For example, when Sylvia sees a cat, she says, in increasingly rapid speed: “Hey. Hey. Heyheyheyheyhey!”

The cast is a parade of familiar faces within the Nashua theater community. Nashua resident Kalinowski has played a multitude of community theater roles, including Lucy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Snoopy, both for the Misfit Toy Players (a group she co-founded). She was also seen as Marty in RB Productions’ Grease, and as Alice in You Can’t Take It With You.

McPherson hails from Manchester, but was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. He most recently starred in Majestic Theatre’s Noises Off. He has also played Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank, Banquo in Macbeth, Boo Radley and Walter Cunningham in To Kill a Mockingbird and Slim in Of Mice and Men, all with The Palace Theatre. He won a 2004 New Hampshire Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Professional Play as Juror #12 in Palace Theatre’s Twelve Angry Men.

Defeo is also a Nashua resident, and she was most recently seen as Mrs. Tilford in NTG’s production of the Lillian Hellman drama The Children’s Hour. Other roles include Ethel Thayer in On Golden Pond and Billie in Born Yesterday, one of her favorite roles to date.

Noted character actress Maria Barry plays the supporting role of Phyllis. Barry won Best Actress in a Community Theater Play earlier this year at the New Hampshire Theatre Awards for her hilarious turn as Miss Abby in Bedford Off-Broadway’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace. A Nashua resident, she has appeared and worked behind the scenes in many New Hampshire productions for the last 15 years, most recently in Blithe Spirit for Bedford Off-Broadway and Humble Boy for Yellow Taxi Productions.

Guy Noyes rounds out the ensemble playing dual roles, Tom and Leslie. Guy is a Manchester resident, but after he finishes directing NTG’s next production of ‘Night, Mother in November, he’ll be moving to Rhode Island to pursue a professional theater career. Noyes has appeared in many productions in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, including the NTG productions of Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile (as Elvis) and in Bad Seed as Leroy.

Director Kevin Riley is continuing his long association with playwright A.R. Gurney with this production of Sylvia. Riley directed Gurney’s The Dining Room, The Open Meeting and Love Letters, and won directing awards for all three shows at the New Hampshire Community Theatre Association Drama Festivals. Riley’s other directing credits include his award winning productions of Twelve Angry (Men) Jurors and The Good Doctor. He won directing awards for both.

Sylvia contains some adult language and humor. The show runs Sept. 22, 23 and 24 at the 14 Court Street Theater in Nashua. Tickets are $12 at the door, or $10 in advance. To reserve tickets, or for more information, visit nashuatheatreguild.org or call 320-2530.