If you could know everything about someone else, would you want to?
Okay, I’m in love with a goat.
Liberalism, homosexuality, and of course bestiality—these are just a few of the provocative topics that are addressed in the dramatic production of three-time Putlizter Prize-winner Edward Albee’s “The Goat: Or, Who is Sylvia?” The play opened last night and will run through Oct. 26 in Adams Pool Theatre.
The central issue revolves around Albee’s protagonist, Martin (Eduardo J. Perez-Torres ’12), who reveals to his family that he has been having an affair with a goat named Sylvia. And it’s not just sex he is after. No, Martin divulges to his dumbfounded wife Stevie (law student Mary R. Plante) that he is not merely infatuated but in love with the goat.
In theory, this bizarre plot twist seems to be removed from reality, as its objective is to undermine to the point of perversion the traditional concepts of love and family. However, in broaching a rather absurd topic, the play resonates as a social commentary that applies to more individual and pertinent concerns.
“This is a damn good story that gets to the heart of one of the essential questions of life, which is how we fundamentally know another human being and to what extent is that knowledge possible,” says Jamie B. Danner ’12, who plays the role of Martin’s gay son Billy.
While it may seem difficult to relate to the unusual circumstances in which the characters are embroiled, Perez-Torres believes that the fundamental emotional struggle is universal. “If you have any empathy at all, you understand what Martin is going through and realize that [his situation] isn’t as absurd as you would think,” he says.
While the play is in large part a tragedy that deals with the consequences arising from humanity’s underlying intolerance and prejudice, Albee’s success stems from his ability to exaggerate the dramatic quality to comic proportions. To achieve that paradoxical effect of hilarity juxtaposed against a morbid backdrop, Albee utilized wordplay, black humor, and even slapstick to counter the mounting tension between the characters as the action progresses to its catastrophic climax. It was precisely this dichotomy that drew director Davida Fernandez-Barkan ’11 to “The Goat.”
“I wanted to emphasize the comedy, because it is a very sad story...that sense of imbalance is important, so I wanted to draw out both the pathos and the humor,” she says.
Considering the intensely personal nature of the play, Fernandez-Barkan believes that the Adams House Pool is the ideal location for this relatively small-scale production. Renovated from an actual swimming pool, the enclosed, rather claustrophobic stage and its immediate vicinity to the seats will encourage a unique interaction between the viewers and the performers, thereby making the experience of watching the scenes all the more dynamic and fascinating.
“The theatre holds close to 100 people, but it feels like a smaller, intimate space that allows the audience to connect with the actors and immerse themselves in the action,” Fernadez-Barkan says.
Though each person’s impression of the performance will be an entirely subjective matter, the director hopes that the play will elicit some thought-provoking questions that will linger long after its conclusion.
“While this play is about the ways we connect with one another, it is also about alienation. For Martin, the goat is what separates him from his family,” she says. “By the performance’s end, I want people to think about what goats are represented in their own lives.”