THE GOAT OR, WHO IS SYLVIA? by Edward Albee (CanStage). Runs to December 10. See Continuing for details. Rating: NN
One of the downsides of being a successful theatre innovator is that sooner or later you've got to worry whether you've still got edge. You can feel that desperation throughout The Goat Or, Who Is Sylvia? , Edward Albee 's 2002 Tony Award-winning play about Martin ( R. H. Thomson ), a successful 50-year-old architect who disrupts his picture-perfect life by announcing he's having an affair with a goat.
Kidding aside and I'm afraid there are several bad jokes like that in the script Albee is obviously trying to press our buttons. What, he's asking us, is acceptable in today's society?
It's no coincidence that Martin's son, Billy ( Paul Dunn ), is gay, something that at one time was taboo. When Billy and Martin share a kiss that goes beyond father-and-son acceptability, Albee's asking us again how much we can take.
All of this would be appropriate fodder for a dark satire about, say, censorship and middle-class values.
But Albee wants to create a modern day tragedy. There's a reason the Eumenides are mentioned near the start, and why Judith Bowden 's set, so contemporary and art-gallery chic at the beginning, is reduced to a few Greek columns by the end. This also explains the overblown, hand-wringing performance by a normally restrained and controlled actor like Gina Wilkinson as Martin's wife, Stevie.
But what is Albee getting at? That there's a collapse of order, and society is going to the shitter?
That idea comes across subtly in one of the play's few successful scenes, where Martin describes a self-help group for other people involved in bestiality. Here we get glimpses of abuse and confusion that are chilling.
Yet Albee can surely find a more compelling way to put his points across than the hectoring, frivolous main scenes in The Goat. What's frustrating about the play and this production isn't its issues or its acting (everyone works very hard), but the overwritten language and uneven tone.
Director Micheline Chevrier doesn't help, adding touches like Asian-influenced music and horror movie sound effects that make the play seem even more incongruous.