Most everybody loves a good dog story — all sorts of people have been reminding Judith Moody of this.
Moody last directed the comic play Sylvia, about a strong bond that grows between a middle-aged man and a dog, five years ago.
Since that time, nary a year has gone by without somebody at a grocery store or other Red Deer location stopping to ask her: When is Central Alberta Theatre going to do that “hilarious” dog play again?
Just lately, Moody said she’s been able to appease these people by telling them: soon.
A remounted production of Sylvia, by A.R. Gurney, will open on Thursday at City Centre Stage in downtown Red Deer.
Everyone who relished Debby Allan in the title role as the wonderful, terrible, adorable labradoodle will be thrilled to know she will be reprising the part of Sylvia.
But the rest of the cast will be made up of new actors — although they are not new to CAT productions.
Craig Scott, who’s played everyone from cowboys to Sherlock Holmes, will portray Greg — a slightly desperate middle-aged man, who falls for Sylvia from the moment the two meet in New York’s Central Park.
(Moody believes it was inspired casting to have Scott act in scenes with Allan, since he is a looming height of six-foot-five, compared to her compact four-foot-10. “It’s a great contrast.”)
The play starts with Greg trying to cool off in the park after having a fight with his boss at work. Sylvia approaches and is immediately bouncy and affectionate. She lightens his mood and he ends up taking the dog home with him after being unable to locate her owner.
Greg’s wife Kate, played by Mary Cook, another CAT veteran, is not so crazy about Sylvia.
Mary likes being an empty nester who is not over-encumbered by responsibilities. She relishes the chance to get ahead in her career and be free to travel, said Moody.
Greg reluctantly agrees that Sylvia will stay for a few days — only until he can find her another home. But Greg and Sylvia have already bonded, so days turn into weeks, then months.
Tension increases between Greg and Kate, who still does not like Sylvia. When Kate begins to fear Greg’s obsession with the dog is threatening their relationship, the couple ends up in front of a marriage counsellor (depicted by Gord Phillips, who also plays two other small roles in the play, including Kate’s female friend from college).
Moody admits Greg is officially in the throes of a mid-life crisis. “Instead of getting a Porsche or a girlfriend, he hangs out with this dog.”
And why wouldn’t he?
Sylvia is uncomplicated. She is not judgmental. She understands Greg’s moods and is always happy just to be with him. Moody said these are the same reasons so many dog owners are attached to their pets.
It’s also why the play becomes unexpectedly moving when Sylvia’s future with Greg and Kate is on shaky ground.
“So many people have dogs, and dogs can express exactly how they are feeling with their face and their body. You would know what they would say if they could,” said Moody, who has a golden retriever.
“There’s no pretense, no subterfuge . . . . “Dogs drink out of the toilet, which is gross, and they stick their noses into your friends’ crotches when they visit, until you want to die of embarrassment.”
But on the other hand, Moody noted that dogs are the most excited to see you when you come home in the evening.
“You just know this playwright had to be a dog owner or a dog lover. …” For Moody believes anyone who’s ever loved a dog will love Sylvia.
Moody is certainly fond of the play as this is the third time she is directing it (the first time was for a playhouse in her native B.C.).
As Moody will soon be moving back to the Vancouver area, she said she’s glad this production will be her swan song with CAT.