- By Edward Albee
- Produced by the Bay Theatre Company
- Directed by Lucinda Merry-Browne
- Reviewed by Tim Treanor
This is a play about a man who has sex with a goat – enthusiastically, and frequently. He is in love. Although he has a sweet and intelligent wife, and his life is otherwise a fantastic success, he longs to go behind the barn in rustic Connecticut, and there swive his bovid beloved. Full of hillocky infatuation, he can barely function in modern society. He loses his shaving head, and the meaning of the business card in his pocket. He has won the greatest prize available to architects, and has been commissioned to build a two hundred billion dollar town in the Midwest, but it is of no moment to him. He wants his Sylvia, his sweetness, his goat.
Had this play been written by anyone but Edward Albee, arguably the best living playwright in the English-speaking world, it would be easy to dismiss it as some sort of absurd joke. Bestiality is the practice of men (and some women) who have no other option for sexual fulfillment. To think that a man (Tom Gregory) whose wife (Janet Luby) loves him and embraces him sexually would find comfort with a goat is to strain credulity.
Nonetheless, Albee tucks into it with vigor, and the fine cast does so too, albeit with a little awkwardness as well. Aside from the preposterous central premise, the gemlike dialogue is absolutely realistic. Martin Grey’s wife Stevie reacts precisely as one would expect her to, which means that the furniture is in great danger. His best friend (but not his oldest; Martin knows a 90-year-old professor) Ross (Lee Ordeman) is shocked and his son Billy (Bret Jaspers; most of Albee’s work here is more subtle than this) feels betrayed. I dasn’t tell you how it ends up but if you’re curious about what happens after the play is over, go to this website.
When I first saw this play, I concluded that Albee must have lost a bet (or was in the process of winning one). But this play, odd as it is, is grounded in more noble stuff. Some speculate that the benign and tolerant face of New York liberalism is the target – Billy is gay, and his parents are at peace with it – but I think that’s wrong. Albee is a New York liberal, gay, and in favor of tolerance. The key may be when Billy’s embrace of his father suddenly turns carnal, to the astonishment of both of them. The force of sex, Albee seems to be suggesting, flows through the human spirit like the Niagara River, demanding to be heard regardless of object. At least for men. At least for some men.
If this is so, then Albee’s writing may be a little like sex – it demands to be heard even though its object is obscure. In general, the Bay Theatre Company gives this play the vigorous, complicated production it deserves. On opening night, the cast, with the exception of the excellent Luby, seemed to be fighting its lines a bit and the result was an occasional lag in pacing. Gregory was a little stiff, but Martin is a loopy character who is difficult to know. Reviews of Bill Pullman’s work with the Broadway version said the same thing about his portrayal; stiffness might be a proper attribute of Martin as Albee has written him.
Stevie is a wonderful role, and Luby delivers the goods. Stevie’s point is that it’s no great honor to be loved by a man who also loves a goat. It is, at bottom, more a wound to ego and dignity than it is to the heart, but Luby manages to make the character immensely sympathetic nonetheless.
I also like Jaspers’ work. Billy strides two worlds – at once intensely sexual and still a schoolchild, dependent on his parents’ approval and love. It is hard to show these things and not appear self-conscious, but Jaspers does the job, and it is immensely helpful in making The Goat a real thing instead of the cartoon it could have been.
For those of you who have yet to visit, the Bay Theatre Company operates out of tight but serviceable quarters beneath a retail building in downtown Annapolis. The stage is small, but big enough for this play. In particular, Luby’s aim with the crockery is good enough so that those in the front row are not at risk. The uncredited set designer has built a sturdy living room for all these shenanigans. My dear bride told me that one of the stage lights buzzed throughout the play, but I did not notice it. There is ample parking in the rear.
- Running Time: 1:30 minutes, without intermission.
- When: Thursdays through Sundays until Saturday, June 14. Sunday shows are at three; all other shows are at eight, except that there is no show Thursday, May 15 or Thursday, May 29.
- Where: 275 West Street, Annapolis, MD. 21401