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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? (STC) at Roslyn Packer Theatre - 100 minutes without interval

Intelligent couple Stevie (Claudia Karvan) and Martin Gray (Nathan Page) have been happily married for 22 years.

They have a 17-year-old gay son, Billy (Yazeed Daher) and all live a good life.

Martin, who has just turned 50, has had, arguably, the finest week of his professional life.

He has just been awarded the premiere prize for architecture, the Pritzker, and been chosen to design a $27 billion city. Yet, he appears strangely distracted.

Photos by Prudence Upton

Martin reveals why to his best friend Ross Tuttle (Mark Saturno), after a television interview with Ross in Martin’s home goes awry.

Martin and Ross have known each other for 40 years and yet what the former tells the latter shocks and appalls Ross to his very core.

Once that truth is passed on to Stevie and Billy, there will be hell to pay.

Like Ross, they are dumbfounded.

All want to understand why Martin would sabotage his life.

The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? is an outrageous, Tony Award-winning tragicomedy (it won Best Play in 2002), written by Edward Albee in 2000.

With many laugh aloud moments, Albee questions how far one is prepared to go in a liberal society – exactly what are the limits of acceptability?

The smart one liners keep coming and the audience revels in the absurdity of it all.

The performances are golden.

Just how Nathan Page manages to keep a straight face throughout is a feat in and of itself. As it is, as Martin Gray, he spends much of his time trying to justify his actions.

In short, Martin says he did what he did because he couldn’t help himself. He was overwhelmed.

He uses his logical mind to step his wife through what went down.

Claudia Karvan’s verbal reaction is priceless, with epithets from both Stevie and son Billy coming thick and fast.

Then there is Stevie’s physical response (as effortlessly manifested by Karvan).

She vows to take action and action she takes.

Karvan is a dominant presence on stage, conveying righteousness and indignance.

Yazeed Daher is hilarious and vulnerable as their blindsided son who dearly loves his father, but struggles to understand his choice, until he gives over to it.

As Ross Tuttle, Mark Saturno plays gob smacked – unwilling and unable to accept his friend’s mindset – with conviction.

The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? comes together beautifully.

The interactions occur in the lounge and dining room of the Gray’s modern, spacious home (the set designer is Jeremy Allen).

As director, Mitchell Butel has ensured the comic timing in this production is a treat.

The play takes one to places I dare say most could never have imagined they would go on stage, delighting in the process. Time and again, it hits the mark.

A co-production between Sydney Theatre Company and the State Theatre Company of South Australia, it is on at Roslyn Packer Theatre until 1st April, 2023.


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