“You’re f*cking a goat?!”
Edward Albee’s 2003 Pulitzer-Prize nominated play, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia, is a shocker. An idyllic, upper-class family is brought to their knees upon learning that the patriarch of the family — a middle-aged, award winning architect named Martin (Nick Sandys) — is having an affair with a goat.
His wife Stevie (Annabel Armour) doesn’t take the news well. Much of their fine pottery collection is sacrificed in the name of dramatic moment.
“How can you love me when you love so much less?” Stevie spits out in disgust.
But, as Albee has clarified in interviews, this is not a play about bestiality. It’s a play about happiness and normalcy shaken up by the unthinkable. The goat is merely a device to get us there; wake us up. To show us how educated people reconcile extremely upsetting and shameful situations.
I also think Albee, who’s gay, is saying something about the way most families reacted when a loved came out of the closet not too long ago: you might as well have been f*cking a goat. And, in a stroke of brilliance, Stevie and Martin have a gay son, Billie (Will Allan), whom they treat with respect and love.
Remy Bumppo’s production of this tricky play is mostly successful, if not as shockingly satisfying as the Goodman’s production in 2003. Sandys and Armour are wholly believable as the perfectly-paired couple — a couple who can complete each other’s sentences and toss out a Noël Coward reference without missing a beat.
Ok: so they’re a little pretentious.
But when the goat enters the plot, things get interesting, and Armour, a supremely intelligent actress, unravels quite effectively, her face literally turning red with rage. The confrontation scene between the two is horrifying and hilarious, evoking shades of Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which Albee is the first to poke fun at. It’s dramatic without becoming melodrama.
The following scene where the confused Billy confronts his disoriented father is problematic, however, mostly due to Allan’s oddly eccentric performance that nearly transforms the play into a farce.
But things soon get back on track in the final moments.
Without letting the goat out of the bag, the ending of this 100-minute one-act is shocking and repulsive and will make for engaging post-show dinner conversation.
“The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” plays through May 8 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue. More info here >