A man’s best friend

David Taintor

Competition for a man’s heart is usually between humans. But in “Sylvia” that’s not the case at all.

Running until Feb. 22 at the Grand Little Theatre, 102 West Grand Ave., “Sylvia,” is a comedy about a wife’s competition for her husband’s attention with a dog.

New York couple “Kate” (Karen Fenimore) and “Greg” (Jim Finn) are trying to come to terms with the fact that they are now empty nesters. Kate moves on with her career while Greg gets a dog. This new member of the family causes tension in the marriage as Kate doesn’t want the dog but Greg has grown to love “Sylvia.”

But the dog that comes between the marriage is not just any dog; Sylvia is played by radio personality Sue Kelly.

“My husband and I have three dogs; clearly I’m a dog person,” Kelly said. “It’s a lot of fun to act.”

As for her character, Kelly said Sylvia is a bit of a mystery.

“You don’t know where Sylvia comes from. She’s happy-go-lucky. She wants to win Kate over because she loves Greg and wants to stay with him,” she said.

“Sylvia” director Bob Carr said that this play is all about fun.

“Every dog owner dreams that their dog will talk,” Carr said. “We get to hear what is going on in the dog’s head, it’s very interesting.”

Carr said the creative process of Kelly bringing Sylvia to life was a bit of challenge.

“We’re all pet owners, so we would sit around and discuss at length how dogs move and react to certain things,” said Carr. “We wanted Sylvia to be as realistic as possible.”

“Sylvia’s mannerisms and behavior is reflective of how dogs behave,” Kelly said. “If you have a dog, if you know a dog, you get everything about Sylvia. It gives you an idea of what it’s like to open yourself up to others.”

“This dog pits herself against the wife, so the dynamic is really interesting,” Carr said.

After seeing “Sylvia” at The Jungle Theater in Minneapolis a few years ago, Carr said this was a play he knew he wanted to direct.

“I absolutely loved it when I saw it. I thought it would be a challenge for our actors and they would do really well with it,” he said.

Written in 1995 by A.R Gurney, the character of “Sylvia” was originally played by Sarah Jessica Parker. The play is now dedicated to her.

Kelly, who hosts a morning radio show on 94.1 FM, said that balancing her radio life with her acting life is difficult, but it’s worth it.

“Sleep is highly overrated,” she said. “But working with everyone is fantastic. We all know each other very well and get along great.”

Kelly isn’t the only radio personality on the stage. Finn, who plays Greg, hosts a morning show on 98.1 FM, and John Murphy, who plays three different characters in the show, hosts a morning news show on 790 WAYY-AM.

Though the three mainly work in radio, Carr said they are some of the best actors in Eau Claire.

“This is one of the best shows performed in Eau Claire in a long time,” Carr said. “It’s fun to watch the actors become dogs and everyone in the cast is fantastic.”

Kelly agrees with her director that this is a great show to come and see.

“The play is quick-witted, there’s a lot of physical comedy and it’s so funny, I laugh all the time,” she said. “The writer was clearly a dog owner and knew how dogs behave very well. It shows in the play, how we react to each other is not unlike a dog and its owner,”

“Sylvia” is playing at The Grand Little Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 through 21 and 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students.

Time: 7:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Date: Feb. 19-21, Feb. 22
Place: Little Grand Theatre, 102 West Grand Ave.
Tickets: $15 for adults $8 for students