Ottawa
2 min

In shock, you see the tragedy

Edward Albee pushes boundaries of unconditional love

MY GAY SON. "People think they have an intellectual acceptance, but some parents on a gut level can't accept it," says actress Dixie Seatle. Credit: Capital Xtra files

It’s the most bizarre love triangle to sweep through the Great Canadian Theatre Company yet, but Edward Albee’s tragedy, The Goat Or Who Is Sylvia? is sure to have people everywhere bleating its praises – that is, if they can stop laughing.



Albee, of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? fame, grabbed critics by the horns with his 2002 Tony award-winning play – at once heartrending and incredible.



The play, which opens Thu, Oct 28, showcases a middle-class New York family’s turmoil when it’s revealed that the father, Martin, played by Stewart Arnott, is in love with a goat.



Martin, a successful architect, falls for the goat’s purity and innocence while searching for a country place to help meet his wife Stevie’s “country needs.” The affair lasts six months before his best friend Ross (Dennis Fitzgerald) blows his cover in a letter to Martin’s wife Stevie, played by Dixie Seatle.



Toronto-based Seatle, who has starred in Jacob Two-Two and the Piano Man’s Daughter, says the writing is serious and the story deeply moving, despite its initial absurdity.



“It’s about people pushing boundaries,” she explains carefully. “It’s about unconditional love. This isn’t a farce. It’s huge, you’re going to be fascinated by it. It goes beyond the goat.”



Martin and Stevie are a liberal-minded couple who pride themselves on accepting their gay teenage son, played by Peter Mooney. But when word of Martin’s country concubine gets out, each family member’s tolerance threshold is tested and their inner agony and honesty is heartbreaking.



“People think they have an intellectual acceptance, but some parents on a gut level can’t accept it,” says Seatle of the characters’ outward acceptance of their gay son. “Deep down, they’re expressing a disappointment or confusion. One would have thought they had a really healthy relationship with their son. But indeed as the play unravels it comes out that they don’t.”



Beyond testing the audience’s boundaries, the play presents betrayal as a major theme while we follow Stevie through her painful understanding of her husband’s affair.



“Her whole sense of self unravels,” says Seatle slowly. “It erases her. The emotion is Shakespearean. This play is mythological in scope.”



The goat, Sylvia, never steps on stage. But her absence, her anonymity, seems fitting, as director Lorne Pardy (GCTC’s artistic director) suggests the goat is merely a symbol of something more abstract.



“I think what you discover is that it becomes more about what Martin finds in himself, than what he finds in a goat,” explains Pardy thoughtfully. “I think the goat becomes a metaphor for that thing in ourselves that we would like to allow ourselves to have but generally don’t. I think it’s different for everyone.”



Pardy says the play brilliantly covers the distance between comedy and tragedy by the end of it, but some audiences leave laughing – a reaction he’ll work hard to stomp out.



“Some can’t get beyond it being a joke,” admits Pardy. “But I think for those who allow themselves to enter that world and imagine what it would be like, I think the play is hugely powerful. I’m really into people buying this, because then the story becomes shocking and you get the tragedy.”



The play’s ending never fails to surprise, and leaves the audience with mixed feelings. But whether people exit the theatre angry, deeply sad or confused, Pardy is counting on one thing.



“You’d have to leave with some pretty big questions.”



THE GOAT OR WHO IS SYLVIA?

Oct 28 – Nov 14.

GCTC.

910 Gladstone Ave.

Box office: 236-5196.

www.gctc.ca.