Enigmatic Albee Scores Big At STLAS Exploring A Man And His Goat

John Pierson and Nancy Bell in STLAS' production of Edward Albee's "The Goat Or, Who Is Sylvia?" Photo: John Lamb

John Pierson and Nancy Bell in STLAS’ production of Edward Albee’s “The Goat Or, Who Is Sylvia?” Photo: John Lamb

The 2002 Edward Albee play, “The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?” is one of the strangest plays you’re likely to see. But as the St. Louis Actors’ Studio shows us, even bestiality can elicit laughter amid the disbelief and- to some- horror. Martin and Stevie are a happy, well-to-do couple- he a successful architect and she is obviously a well educated and astute woman. But as we see this lovely couple in the opening scene, he is turning 50 and their marriage is turning 22 but this obvious compatibility is about to take a nasty turn.

Enter Ross, a good friend and host of a local television program focusing on successful people. He’s there to interview Martin on his recent top-flight award and his plum of a role as chief architect on a “city of the future.” When he senses something wrong in Martin’s demeanor, he draws the truth out of him- that, for the past six months, he’s been having an affair with a goat. Finding her on his search for a country week-end home for he and his wife, Martin can’t explain the attraction (who could?). But, as we find out when Ross spills the beans to his wife, he even goes to a sort of “bestialities anonymous” group. But he can’t relate because they all seem to be ashamed of their condition while Martin seems to relish it. He’s in love, after all.

Add a young homosexual son to the mix and this play has a lot of issues for all of the characters to deal with. John Pierson is remarkable as Martin. He is sincere yet contrite about his unusual extra-marital affair as he tries desperately to explain his predilection to his wife and son. Nancy Bell is superb as the not-so-understanding wife. From her “mouth dropped open like a two-dollar suitcase” look when she first reads Ross’ letter to her fits of screaming and breaking up the perfectly detailed living room, she is convincing as she is driven further and further into madness.

As the rat of a best friend, William Roth is perfect. He’s cold as ice as he jokes about his friends’ problems with both the unbelievable affair and dealing with the son- claiming “he’ll grow out of it.” He’s rather despicable but so charming at the same time that you can’t help but like him. Scott Anthony Joy rounds out the cast in great fashion as the effeminate son. A bit over the top at times, it seems to be an appropriate reaction when you think about it. His father has taken a goat as a mistress, for heaven’s sake.

The precise direction of Wayne Salomon helps get the absurd premise across believably and he brings out the true dark humor of Albee’s script as the chuckles and outright laughter occasionally break up the seriousness of the situation. Patrick Huber’s set and lighting design brings out the wealth and sophistication of the couple’s lifestyle and Teresa Doggett’s costumes are right on the mark. Lisa Beke must have spent a season’s worth of budget on the props that are destroyed every night of performance and, if she’s responsible for the chilling final scene, her work is an artistic, dramatic success.

“The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” is not for everyone. But if you’re an Albee fan or a fan of truly off-beat humor, this one is for you. You’ll see an amazing cast and experience a most unusual night in the theatre. It runs without intermission- about 90 minutes. Call St. Louis Actors’ Studio at 314-458-2978 or at http://www.stlas.org for tickets or more information.

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