Who Let the Dog In? A Review of “Sylvia” at Hole in the Wall Theater

Jane Dioguardi

  • Connecticut Critic

Empty nest syndrome, puppy love, and mid-life crises come together in a funny and poignant four-actor play at Hole in the Wall.  Greg (played by Steven Siemiatkoski), bored and aggravated by his corporate job, comes home from a walk in the park, bringing a surprise home to his wife Kate (played by Jennifer Tellier)—a rambunctious mixed-breed stray dog wearing a name tag marked “Sylvia.” 

Kate and Greg are a long-married middle-aged couple whose children are away at college.  They live in an urban high-rise, and Kate has launched a new career as an English teacher.  Greg, discouraged by his job, is at loose ends—Kate has found a new purpose in life.  Sylvia is hardly what Kate needs, but gives Greg the distraction and adulation he craves.  

The energetic and emotive Jill Luberto plays Sylvia in human form.  Without a dog costume or face paint, Sylvia is shown as a full member of the strained family dynamic, communicating in English while gamboling about the stage and jumping on the sofa.  

Greg is besotted with Sylvia.  He gets moral support in the dog park from the eccentric fellow dog lover Tom, played quirkily by Adam Cormier.  Kate, already unhappy about the presence of a dog in their apartment,  grows concerned over Greg’s avoidance of his work and the time he spends with Sylvia.  Kate’s socialite friend Phyllis (also played to the hilt by Adam Cormier) shares her annoyance.  Seeking a solution to a problem that seems insoluble, Greg and Kate visit the androgynous therapist Leslie (the dynamic Adam Cormier yet again).  After meeting with Greg, Leslie advises Kate to get a gun and shoot Sylvia:  “I hope you get her between the eyes.”

Audience members will be torn:  charmed by the bouncy, sweet-natured Sylvia, concerned for the depressed Greg, who is searching for a life that will make him happy, but sympathetic to Kate, the long-suffering, practical adult in the piece.  All in all, “Sylvia” is a pleasant comedy about a nettlesome quandary that manages to come to a satisfying conclusion.

The play runs Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM through October 8 at Hole in the Wall Theater (www.hitw.org ) at 116 Main Street, New Britain.

Before and after the show, dog-loving theatergoers are in for a treat:  a chance to meet Asher, “spokesdog” of Big Fluffy Dog Rescue (www.bigfluffydogs.com ), and his “person,” Drusilla Carter.  A display in the theater lobby provides information about the organization, which is dedicated to helping giant breed mixed-breed dogs in need, helping them find homes and saving them from euthanasia.