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Sylvia, TinFish Theatre. Preretirement boomers and dog owners of all ages should identify with A.R. Gurney’s sweet story of a stray pooch that becomes the focus of its master’s midlife crisis. The dog, Sylvia, is played by a woman (Joan McClive), giving canine emotions a human voice. Schlumpy, middle-aged Greg (Greg Lackner) is winding down his career and searching for meaning when he finds Sylvia in the park. He sees freedom and possibility in his new relationship. His wife (Jeanie Grace), who’s eager to rejoin the working world now that the nest is empty, sees unwanted responsibility and hair on the sofa.
Gurney’s witty, truthful script does 80 percent of the work in any production of this play. The other 20 percent depends on the actor playing Sylvia mastering subtle nuances of dog behavior and the rest of the cast playing everything honestly. McClive’s doggy body language and verbal character development are both spot on, and Lackner and Grace effectively portray the overfamiliarity, frustration, and deep affection that come after years of growing apart and growing together. Jerald Edwards as the rest of the characters–a fellow dog owner, a visiting sorority sister, and a gender-bending psychoanalyst–has some good moments, but he needs to slow down, enunciate, and get over the joke of himself in drag.