Thursday, December 5, 2013
CBR V Review #52: The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? by Edward Albee
I'm going to put this out there to start with - this play is most decidedly not for everyone. The central issue at hand is the protagonists affair with a goat. If that's a problem for you, just stop now. If not, then enjoy the incredibly written play in all its complex awfulness.
Martin and Stevie have an incredibly happy marriage. Neither has ever been tempted to cheat, something uncommon in their social circle. They have a son, Billy, whose sexuality is an adjustment for the couple, but not something terrible. Martin is at the top of his game as an architect. But something is set to ruin everything. After distractedly ruining and interview with his best friend, Ross, Martin confesses he's having an affair with a certain Sylvia, who, it turns out, is a goat. He's in love with his wife, but he's also in love with Sylvia. Ross writes to Stevie to tell her of Martin's infidelity, and the play is, in the main, a reaction to this news.
This play is so sharply written. In such a short span, the relationship between Martin and Stevie is established as interesting, dynamic, and real, and it makes it all the more heartbreaking to see them fall apart in the aftermath. I appreciate that Albee paints Martin in a sympathetic light. Bestiality is not something we, as a culture, have any sort of sympathy or understanding for as a sexual choice (and I'm down with that, don't get me wrong). But Martin isn't some degenerate pervert in this. He's a man, in love, and confused by how and why that is. Making Martin not a monster makes it an interesting story. Albee makes him hard to hate the way you would expect to, and that's to his credit.
Stevie...Stevie is magnificent, and a character I am dying to play someday (I'm too young to have a 17 year old son, thank you very much). The way she casually breaks objects while more pieces of the story come out is genius. She has such fabulous snark about the way she handles her pain and her rage. And she makes the point you have to wonder at as an audience - how can you possible prepare for something like this? In the long list of things you can possibly imagine going wrong in a relationship - cheating, sexual identity issues, lying, alcoholism, screwing the babysitter, etc - who includes fucking a goat on that list? I'm going to hazard a guess of very few people.
This play is brilliant and dark, like much of Albee's work. I highly recommend it, if you can handle the subject matter.