Art jumps into a dog's life during Sylvia

Actors, from left, Sydney Lloyd (as Kate), Zach Woudstra (as Greg), and Cleodie Collison (as Sylvia) are at the centre of Shawnigan Lake School
Actors, from left, Sydney Lloyd (as Kate), Zach Woudstra (as Greg), and Cleodie Collison (as Sylvia) are at the centre of Shawnigan Lake School's new play Sylvia.
— image credit: courtesy Gregg Perry

If dogs could only talk.

Well, the wayward mutt in Shawnigan Lake School’s comedy Sylvia does.

That may be a good or a bad situation, depending on the dog and its owners.

Take Sylvia’s young couple, struggling with a pack of marital problems in director Gregg Perry’s play leashed to A.R. Gurney’s script.

“In lots of cases younger couples have dogs, “ said Sandi Trent, Cowichan SPCA’s manager. “It probably strengthens their relationship because they’re caring for another being, and doing it as a couple — or it could go bad.

“My husband left after dog number seven arrived; he hadn’t signed on for the dog part of it all.”

Trent’s bent on canines and couples was echoed by SLS drama teacher and director Gregg Perry.

“Sylvia’s about a mid-life stock broker (Greg, depicted by Zach Woudstra) who brings home a stray dog (Sylvia, played by Cleodie Collison) from Central Park — to the consternation of his wife (Kate, played by Sydney Lloyd) — and the dog proceeds to chew a hole in their marriage.”

But those holes let us hear all the lovely conversations people have with their pets, and we get to hear the other side from Sylvia’s mouth, Perry explained of his six-member cast.

Trent said she was interested in seeing SLS’s Sylvia.

That’s because Sylvia’s tale reflects some real-life facts and figures concerning married mutt owners.

“It’s an interesting premise,” Trent said of a communicating canine living amid marital conflicts, such as those faced by real couples.

“You grow as a couple, and probably see sides of your spouse you wouldn’t normally see,” she said, relating pooch ownership to “having a baby to save a marriage.”

Statistically, Trent said, most Cowichan couples adopting dogs are younger and without children.

“Of 96 adoptions since January, about 60 were young couples without kids.”

Perry understood.

“Sylvia’s all about relationships; we all want to be loved and feel we belong.

“Maybe that’s why there are lots of dog owners out there getting unequivocal love from adorable, and adoring, pets.”

Such as Sylvia, who matures while settling in at home.

“I change into three outfits:” said Collison, 16, “scruffy jeans, then teen-punk clothes, then a black cocktail dress.”

Sylvia’s shift from orphaned pup to pampered pet complements conflicts confronted by Kate and Greg.

“In a relationship, you have to adjust to the other person’s needs and wants — and they have to do the same for you if you want to make it work.”

Their dog is the catalyst.

“Sylvia shows sharing and love to Kate, who’s a lot sterner than Greg.”

Collison’s trick was playing a dog making viewers sit up and take notice.

“I hope people use their imaginations, and get all the doggie things I have to do.”

Your ticket

What: Sylvia

When: April 10 to 12, 7:30 p.m.; April 13, 2 p.m.

Where: Wilkinson Studio Theatre, Shawnigan Lake School

Tickets: $8, $5 seniors and students.

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