The Bond Between a Man and His Dog with a Tinge of Jealousy

In the play Sylvia by A.R. Gurney, the audience is introduced to a common argument among many families-whether or not a stray dog can be kept as the household pet? Kate,  is strongly against her husband’s, Greg, will to keep this newfound dog, Sylvia. With their children away at college, the married couple of 22 years is experiencing “empty nest syndrome” and Greg feels the need to fill this unknown void with a stray dog that he quickly forms an inseparable bond with.

Sylvia’s visit at the apartment of Greg and Kate is made extremely unwelcome by the woman of the household, Kate.  Kate is simply not only against having a dog because of the lifestyle that Greg and Kate have overtaken since their children have moved out, but rather she is highly jealous of the bond that Sylvia and Greg share. Kate makes her distaste and jealousy of Sylvia quite evident with a statement such as “I don’t care if she’s a kangaroo. She’s destroying our marriage (36).” Kate has moved from not only voicing her displeasure and jealousy of Sylvia’s extended visit to her husband, Greg, but also to her close friend, Phyllis.Kate grows so jealous of the situation and is angered by their deteriorating marriage, that she forces Greg to see a therapist. Isherwood from The New York Times also picked up on the oddities that Greg displayed while at the therapist. Greg chose to primarily talk about Sylvia during his therapy session and “rhapsodize about Sylvia’s ‘great butt.'” (‘Sylvia,’ in Which a Man Loves a Dog Too Much). Kate has also frankly addressed her objection to her husband where they see that they have countering views regarding Sylvia’s presence. Greg says “She (Sylvia) lightens my life” while Kate counters “She darkens mine (41).” According to a review published by the New York Times, “Greg, who’s unhappy at work and emotionally adrift with the kids grown, finding his only solace in the comfort of his new pet.” (‘Sylvia,’ in Which a Man Loves a Dog Too Much). Greg appears to have a void in his life with their children being in their adult life and not being satisfied with his career. During Greg’s somber state, he happens to find a stray in upstate New York that has done the trick on filling the void of middle-aged adulthood and brightening his life, but simultaneously darkening the life of his wife, Kate.

There is an ongoing disagreement between husband and wife regarding whether or not Sylvia finds a more permanent family, all the while Kate being jealous of the relationship that her husband and Sylvia share. Finally, Greg decides to put his marriage over his newfound relationship with Sylvia. As Greg was ready to take Sylvia away to her new family, Kate finally came around and changed her mind that Sylvia could stay. In the end, even through all the jealousy that Kate holds towards Sylvia, she remains a permanent fixture in the household of Kate and Greg.

After reading the review of Sylvia published in The New York Times, the author of the post, Charles Isherwood, he examines primarily the play on broadway, which made its depute in 2015 at Cort Theater, while also considering the actual script by A.R. Gurney. Isherwood is puzzled by the genre that this particular play has been assigned. Isherwood writes that is is a “dark drama about a psychopath with tendencies toward bestiality.” He then later corrects his opinion with the reality of what genre the play actually is by saying “Wait, what’ that? You heard it was a comedy?” Clearly there is more than one interpretation of this play and it’s purposes, while most performances do. Isherwood has made it very evident that he is not particularly fond of the play, along with the actor (Matthew Broderick) for the primary reason that he is biased towards cats. Isherwood comically writes, even though he may not have intended for it to be humorous, “one who finds having to watch people pick up dog feces on a daily basis one of the more distasteful (albeit necessary) of city living.” Isherwood obviously prefers cats over dogs, which would provide insight of to why he is not particularly fond of A. R. Gurney’s play Sylvia.

Upon first reading this script, I must I was slightly confused and caught off guard that Sylvia talked and was portrayed almost as if she was a human. Throughout reading the script, Sylvia’s humanlike qualities seem to become more normal. I side with Isherwood on the interpretation of the genre. While I do see where it can be categorized as a comedy, I did find it extremely odd for Greg to have such a large affinity for Sylvia moments after meeting her. While I do understand the bond between a dog and their human, Greg’s character seems to take it to the extreme.

Works Cited

Gurney, A.R. Sylvia. 1996

Charles, Isherwood. “‘Sylvia,’ in Which a Man Loves a Dog Too Much.” Review of Sylvia by A.R. Gurney,, 27 Oct. 2015. Accessed 8 Dec. 2017

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