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The Goat

Sunday Star-Times, 25 September 2005



One Man's Meat

by Gilbert Wong

By now there can't be anyone who doesn't know that Sylvia is the Goat and that Sylvia is the object of Martin's affection, truly the love that dare not speak its name.

So we know the secret, but apart from Martin, nobody on stage has any inkling.  Cue chortles all around. 

Martin Gray, a faded New York architect who has just turned 50, seems to have it all--a great career, a loving smart wife Stevie whom he loves deeply in turn, a son and good friend.

But he's fallen for a farm animal.  It's absurd, but celebrated playwright Edward Albee would never write a barnyard skit.  His best work puts relationships under heavy siege and here he really tests the boundaries of what couples might put up with as he questions where the limits lie for those who profess to be liberal free thinkers.

The Gray's son is gay, a condition once seen as sickness now regarded as part of the norm. 

Though Albee is not asking where next, he's far more concerned with the tragedy of a good man unable to stop the disintegration of his marriage and life.

Director Oliver Driver wrings every ambiguity from the work, and strolls the line between that biting humor and tragedy with no missteps, guiding a strong cast fully engaged with thought-provoking material.

As Martin, Michael Hurst must make bestiality explicable and beyond that present a character that has genuinely fallen for a goat.  He does so by preserving Martin's inner dignity.  Even at his worse, Martin extracts our sympathy, the test of a tragic hero.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand's Stevie reduces a sophisticated, controlled woman into an animal-like despair, at one point reduced to disturbing primal howls after turning half the props into shrapnel.

Paul Barrett as Martin's friend and "Judas", Ross, is a disgusted onlooker while Kip Chapman is Billy, the couple's "faggot" son, an unwilling victim of this fractured household.

By play's end, the snickers have dried up as Albee takes his premise to its unsettling conclusion in a powerful play, passionately performed.

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