Edward Albee’s The Goat (or) Who is Syliva? isn’t a quiet undertaking. It’s a fierce play that deals with the story of a family man, who loves his wife and kid but also falls in love with Sylvia, who happens to be a goat. Albee’s play is meant to examine what is love and whether in can be wrong in the face of social taboos. Getting this point across takes a lot of investment, something that Artist Collective Theatre has taken on with their production of Albee’s thriller.
Martin (Eric Pettifor) confesses his love and affair with Sylvia, to his friend Ross (Darcy Wilson). Ross feels obligated to tell Martin’s wife Stevie (Charlotte Loepkky) and thus unfolds the unraveling on the whole family, including their son Billy (Ben Francis).
The success of this play rests on Pettifor, as he has to believe with all his might that Martin has suddenly fallen in love and is as much in love with Sylvia as he is with Stevie. Otherwise the play becomes a decision as to whether Martin is rational and reasonable, like you and me. Pettifor does his best, but his performance does not encapsulate the nuance of the play. He has to be sympathetic and the audience has to relate, at least a bit to how he feels, that he just fell in love. In this case Pettifor masters the dialogue but isn’t convincing enough for the play, which makes the narrative unsuccessful because the play hinges on Martin. Playing opposite him Loepkky is emotional and furious as Stevie without stepping into the bounds of the absurd. Wilson is also vulgar and steady as the Ross and the balance is tipped a bit on the narrative with Pettifor not being quite as strong.
Hanne Loosen’s set design is very well done, with two large shelves on either side of the stage, filled with decorative objects that Stevie chooses to throw around.
The Goat is challenging to its audience but tells the story of characters that when in crisis still can have some moments of levity. Which makes the play a balanced narrative, including some pretty philosophical questions and word play. Both Martin and Stevie are intellectuals and that shines through in ACT’s production. But The Goat, struggles with some minor issues in its production that hold it back from what it could truly be.