The College of Southern Nevada's "The Goat or Who is Sylvia?" is a reminder that certain characters need to be played by actors who appear to be of a certain age.
In Edward Albee's 2002 Tony winner, poor Martin (Ken Kucan) is a highly celebrated architect, with a devoted wife (Susan Lowe), a loving teenage son (Ian Comanse) and a loyal, longtime best friend (the likable Peter Vitale). Only trouble is, he's in love with a goat. Not just her body. He's hot for her soul too. Hilarious one-liners interspersed with poignant observations about the nature of passion help chronicle the family's reactions.
It's amazing what a light-hearted feel Albee has been able to give a story that has a lot of in-depth issues on its mind.
This material obviously needs a careful playing style. Director Erica Griffin finds it in the brief first act (way too brief. Griffin pauses the action in the wrong place). In that first section, the director and Kucan show us Martin's pain, while still allowing us nonstop laughter. In the second act, Lowe accomplishes the difficult feat of reacting genuinely to each of Martin's confessions. The comedy and horror is all there in her face.
Comanse makes the son a sensitive 17-year-old who is doing his best to protect both mother and father. (It's Comanse's first acting gig, and he's a natural.)
But early in the second act, Griffin loses control. Kucan begins repeating the same yowls of pain. His and Lowe's arguments resemble "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" at triple-angst. The monotonous pacing smothers the comedy.
Griffin makes another fatal mistake. The script says Martin is 50; I'd say a youthful 50. Clearly, this is a story about male menopause. Martin's sexual behavior is meant to titillate as well as disgust. But Griffin has upped Martin's age to 60, and Kucan looks and plays him as if he were in the ballpark of 75. Watching an elderly man act eccentric, experience memory lapses, and unexpectedly linger on a kiss from a young male, makes for a whole different story than the one Albee is telling. (Interesting too, that Griffin seems afraid of the male-male kiss. She makes it so brief that it could easily be as innocent as the characters involved claim.)
Designer Gary Carton's living-room is spacious, revealing and right. Griffin uses it well by smart use of the in-the-round setting.
But the director has confused the play's issues.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.