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  WINDY CITY TIMES

The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2018-09-19

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Playwright: Edward Albee

At: Interrobang Theatre Project at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. Tickets: $32; InterrobangTheatre.org 312-219-4140. Runs through: Oct. 6

However steadfastly we may support the right of all people to love, couple and marry as they choose, most communities still designate a few zones "no-fly" to winged Cupid—children below a certain age, for example. Likewise forbidden are erotic activities involving live animals. Furry or feathered consorts may sleep undisturbed at the foot of your bed, but if your Fido or Felix crawls beneath the covers, you risk the censure of cohabitants, peers and legal authorities.

This contradiction forms the basis for Edward Albee's exploration of—take a deep breath, now—the accidental circumstances transforming an unlucky mortal into a social pariah and, just maybe, a tragic hero. Like many of his predecessors, our protagonist is a "decent, liberal, right-thinking" citizen, a faithful husband with an African-American wife, a gay teenage son and a circle of friends who freely engage in casual adultery. So what is the crime that so violates the morals of this tribe? Well, upon returning from a drive in the country,our paragon claims to have been seduced by what might, in pagan myth, be a pastoral goddess, but, in our modern secular post-Freudian society, can only be labeled a goat—a nanny goat, to be specific, dubbed "Sylvia" for her bucolic origins.

Is "Love Is Love" applicable in this case? Is a coquettish Caprine capable of informed consent? Does copulative anthropomorphism, however couched in romantic poesy, represent an abuse of power, privilege and/or hygiene? Albee argues neither for tolerance of interspecies sex, nor pity for those enamored of the unattainable, but, instead, extends an invitation—facilitated by his characters' comic propensity for commenting on their own syntax, semantics and mechanics of discourse—to consider OUR individual boundaries, and why we erect them where we do.

No theater company could be faulted for stumbling occasionally in the course of navigating Albee's slippery thesis and extravagant stage business—did I mention the classical and contemporary textual references, the trash-the-stage tantrums and the entrance of an actual barnyard you-know-what?—but the heroic efforts of director James Yost and the company assembled for this Interrobang Theater Project production render its 90 minutes in Rivendell's Edgewater storefront a provocative and surprisingly funny symposium on the evolution of our cultural policies.


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