Playwright Edward Albee has a knack for writing intriguing and provocative works, and The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? certainly fits the bill. It's subject matter is controversial, affecting, and powerful, inviting much conversation and discussion like great theatre should. Full of disconcerting moments and betrayals, it's just another example of the author's brilliance in provoking a response from anyone who views it. The St. Louis Actors' Studio has assembled an excellent cast to bring this show to life, and sell-out crowds are proof that this is an absolutely must-see production.
Martin and Stevie would seem to have a marriage that's nearly flawless. Their gay son even comments on how they provided him with the perfect upbringing with their blend of intelligence, understanding and humor. But something is definitely amiss, and when successful architect Martin confesses to an affair during an aborted interview session with his best friend Ross, his admission brings about a series of events that will change his life and union with Stevie forever. It seems that his sexual proclivities center around a goat he's named Sylvia. Perhaps, it's something Martin could seek help for, and he does attend a group therapy with others who have committed the act of bestiality, but Ross sends a letter that details his actions to Stevie and all hell breaks loose.
John Pierson delivers a terrific, layered performance as Martin. We may be repulsed by what's he done, but we're also somehow sympathetic, because it's clear he cannot help himself. Nancy Bell is equally strong as his horrified wife Stevie. Her initial reactions are completely understandable given the fact that Martin says he loves the both of them, and since that effectively brings her down to the level of a goat and destroys her faith in her husband. What she winds up doing in her agitated state is shocking and unexpected, and I wouldn't dare reveal it and spoil the moment that brings this play to an abrupt end. William Roth is also quite good as Martin's duplicitous friend, and his decision to inform Stevie is questionable to say the least. Scott Anthony Joy rounds out the cast as Martin and Stevie's gay son, who finds the situation confusing and deeply upsetting, and yet, still loves his father despite what has occurred.
Wayne Salomon's direction is exceptional, making the most of each emotional epiphany, while deftly mining the extreme black humor that Albee has included in this unusual piece of theatre. Patrick Huber's scenic design and lighting are meticulous and neatly reflect an architect's tasteful decor and surroundings. Lisa Beke provides a number of props that are decimated once Martin's indiscretions are revealed to Stevie, and Teresa Doggett crafts costumes that snugly fit each character like a glove.
The St. Louis Actors' Studio has put together an amazing production of this incredible work, and The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? continues at the Gaslight Theatre through February 3, 2013. It's thought-provoking theatre at its finest.