Sylvia

Last Friday I went to see Sylvia, the new play about a man and his dog. I’d heard Annaleigh Ashford was killing it and I expected nothing more than a performance of a bored fish from Matthew Broderick, because let’s be honest: phoning it in is what he does best nowadays. Love him, but it might be time to retire now. 

Ashford brilliant portrays a poodle found wandering around Central Park who is adopted by the meek and equally as lost Greg (Broderick). Greg’s wife Kate (the marvelous Julie White) is bordering on fuming when he brings Sylvia home. Greg is warned by a fellow dog owner (played by Robert Sella, who plays multiple roles throughout the night) to get ready for trouble with his wife because his wife doesn’t want a dog and because it has a human name (which has some kind of psychological effect on a person). The premonition comes true but don’t worry, there’s a happy ending

Robert Sella, killing it in front of my eyes since at least 2005, was perfect in his many roles that night. He’s a brilliant comedic actor. Julie White, another favorite of mine, although not at her funniest, got lots of laughs (not her fault, but not every script can be Little Dog Laughed-level of comedic brilliance). 

I actually thought Broderick was kind of adorable. He still used that same, sort of annoying, whoa-is-me Charlie Brown voice, but it kind of worked. 

The star of the night was, of course, Ashford. She saved the revival of Rent as Maureen and I don’t think she’ll ever disappoint. She is one of the great character actors of my generation. Her physicality as a dog was perfect. I really have nothing else to say expect: perfect. And: hilarious.

It dragged a bit and it could easily be shaved down to an hour and 45 minutes with no intermission, but nevertheless, if you have a free night, go laugh out loud at Ashford. 

Last month I landed a ticket to Manhattan Theatre Club’s Airline Highway at the Samuel Friedman Theatre after learning that Julie White (!) was in it so how could I not see it?!

The play takes place in the Hummingbird Motel on the Airline Highway outside of New Orleans and is a pretty depressing place to live. The residents are throwing a “living funeral” for one of their favorite inhabitants, a former dancer named Miss Ruby. The other residents have pretty much not done a whole lot with their lives but they at least had a good time not doing anything. A resident who’s gotten out and done well for himself is coming back which is a problem for Krista, who was in a relationship (of sorts) with him for six years, still loves him, and is still in the same spot where he deserted her.

Bait Boy brings his girlfriend’s daughter with him to the party where she asks the residents questions for her high school sociology project and is filled with life from the fun and good times that these people are having while having not a care in the world.

Things get messy and I think the overall message of the show is that we spend our life running from ourselves and our feelings instead of actually, you know, feeling them. 

It’s dark, and depressing, but it felt relevant.