Janeen McGinnis plays the clever canine in Collaborative Theatre Project's 'Sylvia,' running through Feb. 11. [Photo by Gerry Katz]

A man and his dog ... and his wife

A dog is certainly man’s best friend. But a woman’s best friend? Sometimes, not so much.

That’s the premise of “Sylvia,” playwright A.R. Gurney’s comedic romp through midlife crisis and marital woes. It’s the story of a man and a dog, both chasing after unconditional love.

Staged by Collaborative Theatre Project, performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 26-27, and Thursdays through Saturdays through Feb. 10, at the intimate theater in the Medford Center. Matinees are set for 1:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $15, $20 for seniors, $18 for students, and can be purchased at ctporegon.org, by calling 541-779-1055 or at the box office.

Lovable mutt Sylvia is the object of Greg’s affection — much to the chagrin of his wife, Kate.

Middle-aged Greg, who has trouble staying engaged at work and connecting with Kate, has no trouble connecting with Sylvia, a stray who finds him sitting alone on a park bench. He finds solace in her comforting licks.

When Greg brings the dog home, Kate is not at all pleased with the prospect of caring for a dog, much less having their lives turned upside down.

“Greg and Kate are a husband and wife on divergent paths,” says Susan Avera-Orrego, a founding member of the Collaborative Theatre Project.

“Kate’s done the suburban housewife thing, raised the children and now has new career opportunities.”

She is ready to enter a new phase of life, and there is no room for a dog.

However, Kate does finally agree that Sylvia can stay, and soon Greg is spending more time with Sylvia and less time at his job or with Kate.

Man and dog go on long walks discussing life, love and the pursuit of happiness. Astronomy is a favorite topic, and Greg comes to believe that he and Sylvia are exchanging ideas in a two-sided conversation.

“All the conversations may look like they are two-sided, human to Sylvia, Sylvia to human,” says the play’s director Russell Lloyd. “But in reality they are all one-sided and every response from Sylvia is simply the human projecting thoughts and responses from her — something that we all do with our pets.

“We can fool ourselves into believing we are carrying on conversations with our pets that they understand.”

The daily rambles and ramblings cause more and more friction between Greg and Kate.

Sylvia changes the parameters of their relationship, Aversa-Orrego says.

Sylvia is portrayed as the young, attractive, vivacious and loyal woman that Greg has conjured in his mind — someone who understands his most intimate thoughts. Wife and dog are soon clamoring for Greg’s attention, each determined to win the battle.

In an effort to keep their marriage intact, Greg and Kate go to a therapist. His advice, “Get a gun and shoot the dog.”

"'Sylvia' is a funny, pointed commentary about relationships," Aversa-Orrego says. “It’s also a wonderful commentary about our affinity for our pets. And about a mutual need for unconditional love.”

Lloyd, a veteran actor, director and playwright who spent five seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, plays the role of Greg.

V. Simone Stewart, another longtime Rogue Valley thespian, plays Kate.

William Coyne has the daunting task of tackling three different characters — the psychologist, a man in the dog park and a college friend of the couple — who interacts with the confused and feuding couple.

A clever and witty comedy, Aversa-Orrego says, "Sylvia" also is a love story.”

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