Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: Sylvia with Matthew Broderick and Annaleigh Ashford

Annaleigh Ashford and Matthew Broderick. Photo; Joan Marcus

Annaleigh Ashford Unleashes Her Comedic Abilities and Might Just Be Grooming Herself for Another Tony Nod
By Lauren Yarger
Annaleigh Ashford, who delighted last season as an inept ballet dancer in You Can't Take It With You returns to the Broadway stage in another comedic triumph as a poodle crossbreed with an attitude in A.R. Gurney's Sylvia.

She's definitely the highlight of this revival and might well be on her way to another Tony Award nomination.

The Gurney play follows the relationship between Greg (Matthew Broderick)  who is going through a midlife crisis and the stray he brings home from Central Park (in the backdrop against the couple's apartment, created with floating set pieces by David Rockwell..

"I think you're God," the lovesick dog tells her new master, who finds a boon companion in the pup.

Her finer pedigree is masked by a grungy exterior until a good grooming reveals Sylvia's beauty (designer Ann Roth lets Annaleigh create to pooch with minimal costuming -- a dog collar, a fluffy sweater, some knee pads and a few other trimmings; Wig and Makeup design is by Campbell Young Associates.

The whole "man's best friend" thing doesn't sit well with Greg's wife. Kate (Julie White). however. She was looking forward to spending more time with her husband, now that the two are empty nesters.

Kate soon is competing with Sylvia for Greg's attention and tension enters the home, especially when Greg starts taking time off from work to play with the dog and Sylvia insists on lounging on the furniture, which is strictly forbidden.

While Ashford is entirely engaging, as is Gurney's deceptively deep script,Director Daniel Sullivan's casting of Broderick and White is problematic. They seem mismatched with absolutely no chemistry. They look like hostile acquaintances, not a couple of high school sweethearts who have been together for decades and as a result, Greg's relationship with Sylvia seems the better of the two.

And how can we not prefer this adorable pooch. While actresses often choose to play Sylvia as merely highly energetic, Ashford brings personality and attitude to the role. She has us laughing, whether she is showing appreciation for a treat received as a reward for doing a boring dog trick that seem to entertain humans, or pulling on the end of her leash in an all-out, hate-fest directed at a cat. She's worth the price of the ticket. (You can attend an interview with Ashford with BroadwayWorld's Richard Ridge on Thursday, Dec. 3. For details, click here.)

Rounding out the cast is David Sella, who tries too hard in three minor roles: Tom, a guy Greg befriends at the dog park, Phyllis, Kate's uptown society friend and Leslie, the couple's therapist who is going through some gender identity issues of his own.

Sylvia is man's best friend through Jan. 3 ( an earlier closing than had been scheduled) at  the Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday - Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $37 - $147: (800) 432-7250; sylviabroadway.com.

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language
-- Sexual situations

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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