Sylvia by A.R. Gurney. Directed by Kalli Jonsson

Directed by Kalli Jonsson

Playing the Bay Area May 10 – June 30

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Sylvia Photo Calvin Jung

Photo by Calvin Jung

By Sam Hurwitt
IJ correspondent

It seems appropriate that when I sat down to write my review of “Sylvia,” our new dog climbed into my lap, making typing impossible. A.R. Gurney’s popular 1995 comedy explores how adopting a dog affects the life and marriage of a middle-aged professional couple in New York City.

Interestingly enough, it’s the second traveling production of a Gurney play that a Marin company has staged in the last couple of months, after Porchlight Theatre Company’s “Love Letters” in April.

“Sylvia” comes to Mill Valley, Berkeley and San Francisco courtesy of Independent Cabaret Productions and Shakespeare at Stinson, which is a single company with two names; it’s been years since it performed at Stinson or did any Shakespeare, but it’s taking a while to fully commit to the new name.

Much of “Sylvia” is about commitment. Husband Greg brings home a stray dog from the park one day and falls instantly in love with her, much to wife Kate’s dismay. The more Kate insists that there’s no room for Sylvia in their lifestyle, the more the dog becomes the center of the household and of Greg’s world. This is not to be confused with Edward Albee’s 2002 play “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” about a marriage threatened by the husband having a love affair with a goat. What we learn from the American theater is that wives would be wise to be wary of animals named Sylvia.

Gurney’s play is often very funny, almost entirely because of the gimmick of the talking dog. Sylvia is played by a human actress — in this case Sami J. Granberg — in regular feminine clothing rather than a dog costume, simpler or fancier depending on how well groomed she is that day. Although her energy and some of her movements are canine, she carries on normal conversations in English, and everyone can understand what she’s saying and respond in kind, although it’s understood that nothing she’s doing is out of the ordinary. Her barks are appropriately translated as “Hey! Hey! Hey!”

It’s easy to see why Greg’s so infatuated with Sylvia. In a priceless performance by Granberg, she’s infectiously boisterous, upbeat and eager to please, doting on Greg — and everyone, really — with unconditional love. She’s impishly mischievous in her constant attempts to talk her way into being allowed to sit on the furniture and her unconvincing claim to be housetrained. She’s also amusingly foul-mouthed, especially when she’s in heat or cussing out a cat.

It’s clear that Greg is a little too obsessed with his new dog. He keeps blowing off work to take her for walks and teach her tricks. Played by David Shirk with doting, starry-eyed exuberance, Greg clearly loves his wife, but Sylvia is all he can talk about.

Kate gets the short end of the stick. She wasn’t consulted and doesn’t want a dog, who’s clearly disrupting her life. She’s jealous of the attention her husband is lavishing on another female, even if it is a four-legged one.

As usual for Gurney, the characters are upper-middle class, with society friends and symphony subscriptions. Their children are off to college, and Kate in particular is very career-driven. (“It’s a phase women are going through these days,” Greg tells Sylvia in one of several gender references that would have seemed dated even when the play came out 18 years ago.) A fellow dog owner in the park who otherwise seems like a regular dude (if a bit gossipy) cites “Ethan Frome” as if it’s something everybody knows, and even the dog references lesser-known moments from “The Odyssey.”

Tim Green does triple duty as the chatty guy in the dog park, a posh society dame with a singsong falsetto, and a therapist with a booming broadcaster’s voice who’s allegedly androgynous but reads as male until the dialogue calls it into question. These roles are broadly entertaining and serve as needed reminders that Kate’s not the only one who thinks Greg’s devotion to his dog may be a problem.

Director Kalli Jonsson gives the play a bare-bones, solid staging. Calvin Jung’s set is minimal — a couch, a recliner, a grassy carpet and a screen with backgrounds projected onto it — and Richard Ciccarone’s sound design incorporates 1950s jazz, cocktail music, even a bit of Bloodhound Gang.

Like Gurney’s “Love Letters,” “Sylvia” has a mawkish ending that ties things up far too neatly. But if nothing else it’s worth checking out for how aptly and humorously it captures the canine personality and interior world. Marital drama aside, that part should delight any dog owner.


Sylvia by A.R. Gurney. Directed by Kalli Jonsson

Sylvia by A. R. Gurney.
Directed by Kalli Jonsson

Greg and Kate are empty-nesters in the big city. On a walk in the park, Greg is adopted 
by Sylvia, a bouncy, frisky poodle mix (played by a human). Soon, Kate feels that she is losing 
Greg to his adoring new friend. This imaginative take on midlife crisis leads to lots of 
laughs and thoughtful insights on love, marriage and jealousy.

Performing at:

Live Oak Theater, Berkeley
1301 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley
Preview on Friday, May 10. Opening night Saturday, May 11. 
Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm and Sunday at 7:00pm.
May 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25.

Ft. Mason, San Francisco
Building C, Room 300, 3rd Floor, San Francisco
Preview on Friday, May 31. Opening Saturday, June 1.
Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm and Sunday at 7:00pm.
June 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28.

SweetWater Music Hall, Mill Valley
19 Corte Madera Ave, Mill Valley
Come early for an organic farm-to-table lunch by acclaimed chef Gordon Drysdale.
Performances are Saturday and Sunday. Doors open at 1.00pm show at 2.00pm.
May 26, June 29, 30.

Read all about Eve Ensler, the brains behind the Vagina Monologues, a movement all in it’s own.  Then come and see it!

Full Article Here:

Personal History:

Ensler was born in New York, the daughter of a housewife and an executive.[4] Her father was Jewish and her mother was from a Christian background.[5] She reports having been physically and sexually abused by her father when she was a child.[5][6] She graduated from Middlebury College in 1975. She married Richard McDermott in 1978, and divorced him 10 years later. She is the adoptive mother of actor Dylan McDermott, whom she adopted when he was 15 and she was 23.[7]
Ensler wrote an article in The Guardian (June 12, 2010) in which she mentioned that she is receiving treatment for uterine cancer.[8]

The Vagina Monologues:

The Vagina Monologues was written in 1996. First performed in the basement of the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village, The Vagina Monologues has been translated into 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Celebrities who have starred in the play include: Jane FondaWhoopi GoldbergIdina MenzelGlenn CloseSusan SarandonMarin MazzieCyndi LauperMary Testa and Oprah Winfrey. Ensler was awarded the Obie Award in 1996 for ‘Best New Play’ and in 1999 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship Award in Playwriting. She has also received the Berrilla-Kerr Award for Playwriting, the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, and the Jury Award for Theater at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.[9]


Ensler is a prominent activist addressing issues of violence against women and girls. In 1998, her experience performing The Vagina Monologues inspired her to create V-Day, a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day raises funds and awareness through annual benefit productions of The Vagina Monologues. In 2010, more than 5,400 V-Day events took place in over 1,500 locations in the U.S. and around the world. To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $80 million and educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it, crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns, launched the Karama program in the Middle East, reopened shelters, and funded over 12,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Democratic Republic of CongoHaitiKenyaSouth DakotaEgypt and Iraq. These safe houses provide women sanctuary from abuse, female genital mutilation and honor killing.[10] The ‘V’ in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.

In February 2004, Ensler, alongside Sally FieldJane Fonda and Christine Lahti, protested to have the Mexican government re-investigate the slayings of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez, a city along the Texas border.

Ensler is a very close supporter of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) and went to Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban. She supports Afghan women and has organized many programs for them. She organized one event named the “Afghani Women’s Summit For Democracy”.

Ensler has led a writing group since 1998 at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, which was portrayed in What I Want My Words To Do To You.[11] Judy ClarkKathy Boudin, and Pamela Smartwere among the writing group’s participants featured in the film.

In 2011, V-Day and the Fondation Panzi (DRC), with support from UNICEF, opened the City of Joy, a new community for women survivors of gender violence in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). City of Joy will provide up to 180 Congolese women a year with an opportunity to benefit from group therapy; self-defense training; comprehensive sexuality education (covering HIV/AIDS, family planning); economic empowerment; storytelling; dance; theater; ecology and horticulture. Created from their vision, Congolese women run, operate and direct City of Joy themselves. The City of Joy celebrated its first graduating class in February 2012.

Independent Cabaret Productions and Shakespeare at Stinson
are proud to announce:

The Vagina Monologues

Fall of 2012 – Directed by Hector Correa

Dear Theater Supporters,

The artistic staff of Shakespeare at Stinson and Independent Cabaret Productions are pleased to announce Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues”, directed by Hector Correa – the same mind that brought you Cabaret at the Larkspur Cabaret Theater – from Sept 9th through Nov 18th.

Independent Cabaret Productions will be touring the Vagina Monologues at the following locations: O’Hanlon Center, Bolinas Community Center, Lark Theater in Larkspur, Toby’s Feed Barn in Point Reyes, and the Fall Kirk Center in San Rafael.

This hilarious and touching play is a vibrant example of the arts’ ability to make a difference in people’s lives. We need your support if we are to meet our goal of bringing this production to several theaters in the Bay Area.

Your contribution will be building Independent Cabaret Production’s future by greatly increasing the number of new audience members who will be introduced to our work. We’re deeply committed to continuing that tradition of making theater accessible and available to an audience that reflects the diversity of our community. Your contribution will support Independent Cabaret Production of The Vagina Monologues, and keep professional theater alive in Marin County and the San Francisco Bay Area.Checks can be made payable to:
Shakespeare at Stinson,
P.O. Box 593
Stinson Beach, CA 94970
We appreciate your support, and look forward to seeing you at the theater.
Jeffrey Trotter
Artistic Director
Independent Cabaret Productions
Download the Donation Form Here: Support Independent Cabaret
 or see below.

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Shakespeare at Stinson is a California 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization, EID#: 91-1928035

For a little history lesson or to learn more about the wonderful history of this Musical – go here!

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Check out what Jim Strope had to say about us on “Corinne Procter steals the show at Independent Cabaret Productions’ Cabaret at Fort Mason center in San Francisco. As Sally Bowles, she is caught between that shrinking, angst-ridden space between stardom, love, war, and peace and decides to make the best of her shrinking world. Jeremy Vik plays the master of ceremonies with the wickedness that underlies the superficial gaiety of the script.” Read the full review online here: 

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