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‘Sylvia’ is a doggone good time

Doritos has offered people a chance to have their own a 30-second commercial aired during the Super Bowl for years, and I have often thought I could produce one of those.

My spot would feature ­­– what else? – a dog. People love dogs in commercials, research shows.

I won’t give away my wonderful concept for the commercial here. I wouldn’t want anyone to steal it, natch, but it would focus on a dog and its owner and whether dogs can empathize with humans.

“Sylvia,” which continues its run at The Garage Door Theater this weekend, reminds us of the special bond humans and dogs have. But in the play, written by A.R. Gurney, Sylvia is a dog played by a human (Kate Avery), and she converses in everyday human language with her owner, Greg (Perry Goodwyn), who finds her in a park one day and brings her home. Sylvia communicates barking, incidentally, by saying “hey, hey!” when something excites her.

Sylvia also communicates with Greg’s wife, Kate (Monica David), who doesn’t like having a pooch around her home now that the couple’s children are away at college and she has more freedom to focus on her needs, such as her career.

Kate, who occasionally calls the dog Saliva instead of Sylvia, explains the couple had dogs when the kids were home, but she’s in no mood to look after a canine now. Plus, she reasons, she and Greg will be gone all day at work and Sylvia will get lonesome with no one around.

Greg, on the other hand, has become bored with his job and finds a connection with Sylvia, who seems to be filling some sort of void in his life. Kate reluctantly agrees to allow Sylvia to stay in the home on a trial basis.

Three characters enter the story – Tom, Phyllis and Leslie, each of whom is played by Ty Belger – to lend their insight about the dog entering the home of Greg and Kate.

Like in so many homes with pets in which there is conflict about the pet’s presence, Kate eventually comes to accept Sylvia into her life, and the play portrays what happens to her and Greg’s lives. There’s a touching moment in the story in which the characters come to realize how our pets help us connect to others.

“Sylvia” allows the audience to identify with the main characters, and Avery does a deft job of making Sylvia believable with physical comedy, in big and small ways. I especially enjoyed some of the smaller moments, such as when she follows Greg around in the living room to get his attention. Everyone with a dog has had that experience.

The play opened at the end of a tough week in which the nation came to grips with yet another hideous, despair-inducing event in contemporary times – a mass shooting, this time at a high school in Florida. “Sylvia” prompts some laughs and will definitely make you smile, something we have needed the last couple of weeks for sure, and help you appreciate the happiness pets can bring to our lives.

The final performances of “Sylvia” are scheduled for 7:30 Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Pilot Point Opera House Garage Door Theater. The play contains some adult language and could be considered PG-13. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for children 10 and under, or $10 for groups of 15 or more. Tickets can be purchased at or at the door. The Opera House is at 110 S. Washington on The Square. For more information, call 940-367-0895.

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