Sunday, April 20, 2014

Love turns dark with 'The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?'

     ORLANDO — Edward Albee’s dark comedy “The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?,” is an award-winning play, currently being performed at the Orlando Shakespeare Center, which invokes harsh concepts of strange love and questionable morality on anyone that observes this twisted tragedy.

     “They say that tragedy is cathartic, you can watch it happen to another person and just be glad it isn’t happening to you,” said Julia Gagne the play’s director. “But if this play makes people think about the nature of love and his dilemma, and people want to have coffee afterwards and talk about it, that’s always good.”

     “The Goat” starts out with a tone and setting as innocent and normal as “Leave It To Beaver.” The main protagonist Martin Gray and his loving wife Stevie talk about their daily life and dealing with entering their middle-aged years together. The family is intelligent and seemingly normal on the surface, even coming to terms positively with their young son Billy, who is openly homosexual.

     The first scene of this play is light and funny, but things don’t stay that way for long. Martin confides in his life-long friend Ross about the hidden desire he has for a goat named Sylvia and what brought them together, which leads to a downward spiral that threatens to destroy Martin and his family.

     John DiDonna who produced this play stars as the protagonist Martin. He brilliantly portrays this conflicted yet accomplished man, whose self destructive desire and midlife crisis threaten to destroy everything he’s worked so hard to create.

     DiDonna has directed around 300 plays in his career and acts in a few plays each year, and he feels that simple independent productions like this pose more of a challenge than grand musicals where things tend to fall into place.

     “A show like this does not rely on spectacle, it relies only on truth,” said DiDonna. “It relies only on the actors and their interaction with each other.”

     This is the seconded direct collaboration between Gagne, the former theatre department head at Valencia College, and DiDonna, the current theatre department head at Valencia College. The first production they worked on together around six years ago was another play written by Albee called “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

     Both Gagne and DiDonna have taught “The Goat” as part of their script analysis classes at Valencia, and Gagne felt like a driving force in bringing this play to life because she really wanted to direct it but felt it was inappropriate to do at Valencia College.

     This play turns from a comedy to a tragedy thanks to the heart-wrenching performance by Marty Stonerock who plays Martin’s wife Stevie. She wonderfully conveys all the raw emotions needed to transition the tone of this play, as the dark matter in the heart of this story becomes known.

     Stephen Lima, who plays Martin’s friend Ross, also shows great range in his performance from generating the biggest laughs with his raunchy humor in the first scene, to later where he drives home the hard truth to Martin that his actions threaten his future, his family, and his freedom.

     Steven Fox shows another refined performance as Martin’s son Billy. He deals with his father’s actions with strength and the only one who offers a measurable level of forgiveness. He also tries to keep the peace between his parents as they tear each other apart emotionally.

     Dedication and sincerity can be felt in every line of "The Goat," even when themes become the most disturbing. The Empty Spaces Theatre Co(llaboration) and DiDonna Productions prove once again with this play that no subject is too extreme for them to approach with unbridled artistic devotion.

     There are six performances left of "The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?" at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Loch Haven Park. Shows will run until Saturday, May 3 with evening performances on Friday through Sunday at 8 p.m., and a special industry night performance on Monday, April 28 at 8 p.m.

     Ticket are available by pre-order or cash at door with $20 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors, and group rates are available for groups of 10 or more. For reservations call 407.328.9005, or for credit card pre-orders visit or

     “The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” also contains the use of strong language and adult situations, so parental discretion is advised.

By James Tutten

(All photos by Kristen Wheeler / )

Martin (John DiDonna) tries to explain his bizarre feelings for Sylvia to his horrified wife Stevie ( Marty Stonerock.)

DiDonna shows a devastated and broken Martin after fighting with his wife.


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