THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA? (2017)
Edward Albee’s darkly comedic play is a litmus test for liberalism. We may strive to be open-minded, but are there lines we’re not willing to cross?
In this case, the line concerns fidelity and desire. Martin (Albert Schultz) is a wildly successful architect who seems to have it all: a devoted wife, Stevie (Raquel Duffy), an intelligent son (Paolo Santalucia), and a newly-minted Pritzker Prize. But he’s also got a lover on the side.
A mid-life crisis affair is cliché, but this one has a twist so startling that even Martin’s progressive circle can’t seem to accept it. Once the truth is revealed, it’s not long before his world (and almost every breakable item in his living room) comes crashing down.
The Goat is fascinating and full of surprises, with a script thick with nods to Greek drama, frequent wordplay and Albee’s signature bleak wit.
But while the relationship between Martin and Stevie sits near the centre of the play’s narrative, something’s missing. Even before the major revelation that rends them apart, the couple seems to lack the intimacy required to make what comes next feel truly torturous. Without this foundation, Duffy’s suspicion, rage and abject grief are missing a key companion.
Ironically, the thrown items mentioned in the audience advisory don’t always land, either. When there’s no way to convey the depth of Stevie’s emotions, she smashes something – but the props come apart so cleanly and quietly that this blatant destruction seems safe, dampening both the tragedy and the comedy of the act.
Yet under Alan Dilworth's direction, the cast still delivers, and both Schultz and Duffy give strong performances with some thrilling and truly visceral moments. Derek Boyes stands out as Ross, Martin’s best friend who loves to reminisce about the pair’s bawdy past but balks at what’s most recently transpired. Santalucia quickly establishes the sensitive nature of the couple’s son.
It’s an apt time to produce The Goat; the battle between conservative values and liberal freedom rages on. As we continue to debate over how far is too far, Albee’s play acts as a wry lens for observing what’s permissible, what’s still taboo and why we’ll never agree on where to draw the line.