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The Goat: or, Who Is Sylvia?

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The question isn't why Edward Albee's The Goat: or, Who is Sylvia? ran for only 300 performances on Broadway, but rather, how it ran any at all? Simply put, the play, which premiered in 2002, is about Martin, a 50-year-old architect who announces to his wife and friend that he is having an affair with a goat. (And they say there are only 10 plots!) Not exactly what you'd call commercial Broadway fare.

But it could take years and years to really understand what it's "about." Albee seems to be pushing us to the limits of acceptance regarding expression and sexuality, saying: "OK, you nice liberals -- what do you think about this? OK, how about this? Or this?"

Or maybe it's not about content at all, but the fracturing of time: This side of the fault is the time before Martin's announcement, and this other side is the time after, and The Goat is about how razor-thin the fault, but how cavern-wide as well.

There's also the nature of experiencing time. The Goat is performed without intermission, and much of it is deliberately filled with repetition. For the longest while, we don't ever move past the exact moment of Martin's confession.

I may not really know what it's about -- but I do know, and probably should have said paragraphs sooner, that I love it. It's an amazing piece of theater: scalding hot, consistently discomforting and, at times, side-splittingly funny. (On more than one occasion I covered my mouth because I was laughing so hard.)

The Pittsburgh Playhouse Repertory Company's production, under the direction of Rodger Henderson gets, at the very least, two things right -- Albee's intelligence and his humor. You couldn't get smarter or funnier than Henderson and company have here and, with Albee, that's huge praise.

There's also a third thing they got right: Robin Walsh as the wronged wife. I have to admit that I forget what an amazing actress she can be until I see her onstage and am viscerally reminded of her genius.

The trick with Albee is that he is not a writer of naturalism. Putting aside his Absurdist elements, when it comes to dialogue Albee is as much a mannerist as Wilde or Mamet. The remaining cast of Tony Bingham, Daniel Krell and Justin Mark DeWolf are, by anyone's definition, powerful actors, but Walsh is the performer most in tune with Albee's twisted, sick and wickedly funny view of the world.

And honestly, Ms. Walsh, I mean that as a compliment.

 

The Goat: or, Who is Sylvia? continues Dec. 4-14. Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland. 412-621-4445. www.pittsburghplayhouse.com

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