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Actress Barbara Dirickson on the joy of ‘Sylvia’: The audience

December 9th, 2011 by Seattle Repertory Theatre

R. Hamilton Wright (Greg) and Barbara Dirickson (Sylvia) in Seattle Rep’s 1996 production.

Actress Barbara Dirickson recalls Sylvia as one of the best times she’s ever had working on a show. She played the title role in Seattle Rep’s 1996 production opposite R. Hamilton Wright, who directed our current production of Sylvia.

She was a company member with the Rep in the ’80s and ’90′s, and as The Seattle Times points out, was often referred to as “Seattle’s favorite leading lady” and “one of the best actresses on the West Coast.”

Of her many theatrical experiences, Sylvia is both a role and production that stands out. But it’s not just the character or the play she remembers so well, it’s the audience.

Dirickson told us, “I would have to say one of my most memorable experiences was doing Sylvia. Another great director, David Saint, made that rehearsal a joy. Actors, designers, director, we all had the BEST time working on that show. But the reason I will always remember that show SO fondly is because of the audience. They were a vital part of that play. And they more than did their work! Remember, an actual picture of the dog was never seen until the last few minutes of that play…but the audience had an absolutely crystal clear picture of what that dog looked like in their own minds…We found that out when some people who had seen the show were writing the theatre to say that we had put the wrong dog up on the screen at the end of the play…it should have been a …a poodle…a lab…a collie… I ADORED the audience throughout the run of that show. They came to play ..and play they did.  It was a ball.  I will never forget it.”

Sylvia plays at Seattle Repertory Theatre—with another fantastic actress, Linda K. Morris, in the title role—through Sunday, December 11. Want to bring your pooch with you to the show? Then don’t miss our special Dogs Night Out, Pt.2 closing performance of Sylvia on Sunday, December 11 at 7:30 p.m. For more information call our Box Office at (206) 443-2222.

Yet we see how her adoptive master Greg might project more human qualities onto her – and welcome Sylvia as a liberating distraction from his dull corporate job, an entree to parts of the city he’d never explored (their nightly jaunts change him from a Republican to a Democrat), and a gusher of the affection his grown children no longer provide.

It’s just as clear why Kate might consider her a slobbering pest. And a threat to her marriage, furniture and husband’s income.

Under David Saint’s broad but effective direction, “Sylvia” is studded with laughs – with the occasional pause for a bittersweet reflection, a wry Shakespeare epigram, a winsome three-way rendition of a Cole Porter ballad. Framed in a series of royal blue arches, the mobile set by James Youmans is more elaborate than necessary, but spiffy nonetheless with its gliding elements of cartoon cityscape, condo living room, park foliage and mock airplane.

The reliable Wright and likable Smythe maintain a lively rapport with each other and Dirickson. Joining them is Jim Fyfe, who does triple-gender duty as a macho dog owner full of alarming advice, a rich (and too campy) matron and, most amusingly, an androgynous couples therapist who is no match for a furry, four-legged friend.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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