‘The Goat, or Who is Sylvia’ by Edward Albee at Custom Made Theatre

(L-R) Matt Weimer, Hilary Hesse (Photo by Jay Yamada)

Director Paul Stout has crafted a masterful rendition of this Tony Award winning play (Best Play, 2002) by Edward Albee.  The apartment set by Sarah Pyhkitt is simple and open, revealing everything.

In the opening scene, Martin Gray, played by Matt Weimer, and his wife, Stevie, played by Hilary Hesse, have a delightful marriage.  Martin has just received the Pritzker Prize for architecture and is turning 50.  Stevie is relaxed in the marriage and is having a good time with Martin and their gay son, Billy, played by Max Seijas.  What could go wrong?

Albee has set the stage for disaster, of course, and the truth comes out during an interview between Martin and photo journalist Ross Tuttle, played by Ryan Hayes.  While talking though his life history, Martin is forced to let the cat (or goat, in this case) out of the bag.  Martin is in love with a goat he has named Sylvia.  Yes, Martin is emotionally and physically (no Platonic relationship here) in love with Sylvia.

Of course we know how journalists can keep secrets, and in no time at all, the whole damn family knows of the obsession Martin has with the goat.

(L-R) Matt Weimer, Ryan Hayes (Photo by Jay Yamada)

The confrontations start out as mild as a heady family discussion of the dog drinking out of the toilet, but rise slowly with the realization that it’s true.  Martin is doing it with a goat.

Weimer is excellent as the husband explaining his heart-felt desire for the opposite sex.. beast, and rationally describes the courtship. Billy, is mortified that his father could do such a thing in this family.  Hesse simmers as the injured party and then realizes it is a goat that has come between them.  She jumps into the fray with both feet, literally.

The build-up of the confrontation is amazing with Hesse becoming livid and red-hot with the emotional reactions to “how could you?” and “do you do <this> with the goat, or <this>?”  Eventually, the apartment is awash with physical and emotional damage in a way that gives new meaning to “battle of the sexes.”  Seijas comes through as the rebellious gay son who believes he has seen it all, but this crime and the mortification are too much.

By the end of scene 2, Hesse says some of Albee’s best lines: “Stopping has nothing to do with having started,” when Martin says he can stop.  Hesse insists she is so very different from a goat and she “only gives milk on special occasions!”  Billy, in spite of being gay, cannot understand his father’s indiscretions, and says “at least what I do is with people.”  All in all, this is a total blowout of our traditional norms on stage.  It is hilarious and cathartic at the same time.

(L-R) Max Seijas, Hilary Hesse (Photo by Jay Yamada)

Scene 3 is yet to come and has surprises throughout the scene and up to the ending.

Custom Made Theatre has created a masterpiece of staging, acting and emotional development with this play that Albee might have anticipated, ideally, in his writing.  The play does not hold back for a second.  The characters are sharp and focused on their passions.  The set is a perfect receptacle for their work. Congratulations.

“The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia” continues at the Custom Made Theatre Company in San Francisco through October 20, 2018.  For further information and Tickets: https://www.custommade.org/

Rating: ****

‘The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?,’ by Edward Albee produced by Custom Made Theatre Company.  Director: Paul Stout. Scenic Designer: Sarah Phykitt. Costume Designer: Lindsey Eifert. Sound Designer: Laurence Tasse. Lighting Designer: Christopher Lundhal. Fight Choreographer: Jon Bailey.

Cast: Matt Weimer: Martin Gray. Hilary Hesse: Stevie Gray. Ryan Hayes: Ross Tuttle. Max Seijas: Billy Gray.