Backstage goes to the dogs, again |

Backstage goes to the dogs, again

Keely Brown
Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc

BRECKENRIDGE – If you’ve ever wondered why dogs are called man’s best friend, then just check out the Backstage Theatre next week and see how a yappy, sassy pooch named Sylvia helps out a not-yet-but-almost-on-the-rocks marriage in Manhattan.The Backstage Theatre is presenting a remount of last winter’s hit “Sylvia,” a romantic comedy written by A.R. Gurney’s (also author of the Broadway hit, “Love Letters”). Back quite literally by popular demand, “Sylvia” starts off with a classic pick-up in the park – this time, between a man and a typical waifs-and-strays dog who turns out to be part poodle, part sexpot and part advice columnist. Sylvia almost threatens her new owner’s real-life marriage, which has become a battle of misunderstandings and miscommunications heightened by the onset of the “empty nest syndrome” after 22 years of child-raising in the suburbs. As the human couple deals with their own feelings of being at a loss – with both themselves and each other – Sylvia undergoes her own metamorphosis, sometimes getting in the way, and ultimately helping to find the way for everyone.Directed by Pamela Clifton, “Sylvia” stars Laura “Faith” Rohrbacher as Sylvia, John Ashton as Greg, Kelly Ketzenbarger as his wife Kate, and Backstage artistic director Chris Willard in the multiple roles of Tom, Phyllis and Leslie.This production of “Sylvia” is dedicated to the memory of popular local actor Bob Davis, who shared the role of Greg in last February’s production of the show. Davis passed away last September due to complications from a bone marrow transplant. According to Chris Willard, Davis was hoping that his health would allow him to reprise the role in this fall’s remount.

“It was wonderful to have him in the show,” Willard said, adding that Davis’ passing was a “huge shock” for himself as well as the rest of the theater community. Throughout the run of “Sylvia,” each program will contain an inset featuring cast member memories of working with Davis.

As for remounting the play, Willard says that his cast is as enthusiastic about doing it again as local audiences apparently are to see it.”It’s an incredible amount of fun to do for both the audience and the actors; we enjoy the hell out of each other,” Willard said. “For one thing, Summit County is chock-full of dog lovers,” he said. “And it’s also the fact that Gurney’s genius comes through, in using Sylvia as a metaphor for looking at our relationships. In this kind of marital strife, people have to work through these problems and return to the love that they have for each other, and Sylvia is the catalyst for it all. It’s a very human story, and what they go through to reach each other turns out to be incredibly funny.”However, Willard warns that it’s not your typical “family-adopts-dog” story. “This show is not for kids,” he said. “This dog has a mouth on her. It’s for mature audiences only.”

Willard added one new member to his original cast from last winter – Denver-based actor/director John Ashton, who will play the role of Greg, Sylvia’s entranced owner. Ashton has a track record with the role, having played it for two seasons at Denver’s popular Avenue Theater, which he owned for some years.”‘Sylvia’ is one of those plays that everybody loves,” Ashton said. “Even men love it – and I say that because a lot of times, the last thing a guy wants to do is go watch a play, especially one that’s billed as a romantic comedy. But guys really like this play, even though it’s not written in a typical ‘guy’ way. There are no sports or shoot ’em ups – it’s about the heart and emotions, about marriage and the threats that come to a relationship – and how to overcome them. “Gurney’s writing expresses a lot of the swagger of being a guy, and what it’s like to be coming around the corner of a long life – the things you worry about and enjoy. And it’s a joy to play these things,” he added.Vail, Colorado

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