Play Pushes Limits
Playwright challenges audiences on morality in production
Now 87, Edward Albee, a Virginia native, is unquestionably one of our greatest living dramatic playwrights.
His master work, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is one of the most acclaimed, honored and produced works in the world of theater. “A Delicate Balance,” “The Zoo Story” and “The Sandbox” are just a few of his other successes.
In his career, Albee has won three Pulitzer Prizes for drama and was given a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2005. He was also a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts, both in 1996.
The area’s only Actors’ Equity theater company, River City Repertory, is about to bring Albee to the local stage with a production of his play “The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” opening April 15 at the East Bank Theater at the Bossier Arts Council. Though perhaps one of his lesser-known works, it nonetheless just as clearly displays Albee’s deft talent for portraying the human condition, even in its darkest recesses.
Two of River City Repertory’s most esteemed founders are working together to bring this tragedy to local audiences: Robert Buseick will direct and River City Repertory’s Artistic Director, Patric McWilliams is playing the lead role of Martin Gray.
Gray is a successful architect, seemingly content with his suburban life and family, including his wife Stevie and their 17-year-old gay son, Billy.
It is on his 50th birthday that Gray reveals, first to his best friend Ross Tuttle, that he has fallen in love with Sylvia, a goat. When his wife and son learn of this affair, they are shocked and distraught – as one would imagine.
By shining a light on this family in crisis, Albee “challenges the audience to question their own morality in the face of other social taboos including infidelity, pedophilia, incest and of course bestiality.”
The play is done in the style of a Greek tragedy. The original Greek definition of tragedy happens to be “goat song.”
“Albee’s work is challenging for both the cast and the audience. However, if you stay open as an audience member, you’ll find yourself going down a path of thought that you might not have previously considered,” McWilliams said.
“As Gray’s comfortable life crumbles right before his eyes, ‘The Goat’ becomes a play about friendship, love, betrayal and the often destructive choices that people make,” Buseick said.
“Gray is forced to confront universal questions such as: What is love? What is friendship? What is betrayal? And who has the right to judge what another person does?” Buseick said.
Joining McWilliams in this cast are Sharon Garrison (Stevie) and Richard Stubblefield (Billy) of Houston and Jonathan McVay (Ross) from Dallas.
“I feel blessed to have such a remarkably professional cast to work with,” Buseick said.
“I chose this play because I wanted to continue bringing contemporary and challenging work to the Shreveport- Bossier City area. I specifically wanted to go in the opposite direction of our last very successful production, ‘Boeing, Boeing,’ a lighthearted comedy, to let our supporters know they might be coming to a comedy one time and then be presented with a challenging, thought-provoking piece the next,” McWilliams said.
He said “The Goat” delivers on that goal.
Following Gray’s startling confession that he is having a relationship with a goat, the family begins to tear apart amid Stevie’s breaking of various objects and overturning of furniture. She exits the stage vowing revenge after a shocked and crying Billy has already exited in distress.
Stevie’s vowed revenge will be so disturbingly brutal that it will end the play.
Albee himself once said, “All art is being destroyed by commerce. Most people don’t want art to be disturbing. They want it to be escapist. I don’t believe art should be escapist. That is a waste of time.”
“The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” is definitely not escapist art. However, admittedly, the material could be too disturbing for some younger audience members so parents are urged to consider that before bringing children.
Jim Hayes is in charge of set design and will bring his artist’s eye to his set designs.
The company is bringing in a prop goat from Houston. The construction of the goat was overseen and approved by Albee personally.
Want to go?
River City Repertory’s production of Edward Albee’s “The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” will be April 15-19 at East Bank Theater at the Bossier Arts Council. Bossier Arts Council is located at 630 Barksdale Boulevard in Bossier City. Call 741-8310, for reservations or for more information.