Arts & Entertainment

'Sylvia' pits wife vs. man's best friend

Funny how a family pet can be a blessing to some and a rival to others.

That's pretty much the case with the production of Sylvia, which opens May 22 at The Players Theater in Richland.

Sylvia is a lab/poodle mix with enough street smarts in her to have survived being homeless in New York City.

Greg and Kate have been raising kids for 22 years, and with them all finally out of the house, the couple can focus on themselves for a change.

There's one snag, however. Greg's career as a financial trader is frustrating and winding down, and Kate's career as a teacher is picking up, becoming more demanding.

Ah the perils of marriage, careers, priorities and lonely guys who fall prey to crafty dogs with big sad eyes.

Greg, played Alan Tindell, finds Sylvia in the park. The pooch is wearing a collar that identifies her as Sylvia, so he brings her home as an unconditional companion during his wife's absence as well as from the frustrations of his job.

Sylvia, portrayed by Candace Andrews, thinks she died and went to heaven as Greg channels his affection upon her instead of his wife.

Now Kate, played by Colleen Thornton, suddenly finds herself with a rival for her husband's attention. So the battle begins.

Playing a dog is one of the most challenging roles Andrews has undertaken.

"As actors, we always bring a bit of ourselves to a role, but how do you understand the psyche of a dog?" she said. "Some of the best advice has come from my husband who, as a mailman, encounters dogs everyday.

"Playing a dog is like buying a new car when you suddenly notice all the other makes of that car on the road: I find myself watching dogs, how do they stretch out when they are sleeping, how do they tilt their heads when you speak to them, how do they sniff out a cat?"

Sylvia was first produced in New York by the Manhattan Theatre Club. The year was 1995 and the play starred Blythe Danner, Charles Kimbrough and Sarah Jessica Parker in the title role.

"Sylvia is the role of a lifetime ... seriously," Andrews added. "How often can an actor get away with barking, chewing shoes and screaming at cats?"

The play runs May 22-23, 29-30, June 5-6. Curtain time is 8 p.m. There also is a 2 p.m. matinee May 31. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens. Tickets available at The Players box office in The Parkway in Richland.