"Sylvia" Review - If you don't own a dog, you will now

Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, and Daryl Roth proudly present the Broadway revival of Sylvia, a play by two-time Pulitzer Prize-nominee A.R. Gurney (The Dining RoomLove Letters), directed by Tony Award-winner Daniel Sullivan (Proof).  Sylvia stars two-time Tony Award-winner Matthew Broderick (Brighton Beach Memoirs, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), Tony Award-winner Julie White (The Little Dog Laughed), Drama Desk Award-winner Robert Sella (Stuff Happens), and 2015 Tony Award-winner Annaleigh Ashford (You Can’t Take It With You) in the title role.


Annaleigh Ashford - Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

I have to start off by saying I LOVE DOGS!  Any size, any shape.  Whether you love tiny little dogs that you can carry in your purse or the really big kind that scares everyone away, you will love Sylvia.


Matthew Broderick and Annaleigh Ashford - Photo Credit - Joan Marcus

Let’s make it known right up front that there are no ‘real’ dogs in this play.  I refer to the actual species of dogs.  But, don’t let that deter you, because (Annaleigh Ashford), whom I loved in Kinky Boots, is sensational as Sylvia.  At first when she enters on stage and starts sniffing the furniture to see if she can sit on the couch, I was taken aback because she was a ‘person.’  However, this adorable, blonde, straight-curly haired, fluffy slippers, ID tags around her neck, ‘dog’ gave me the feeling that she may just be Sylvia.  What convinced me were the knee pads.  Those knee pads had a leading role in what was to be, a human playing a dog playing a human. 


Matthew Broderick and Annaleigh Ashford - Photo Credit - Joan Marcus

Isn’t that what our dogs are all about, after all?  After awhile, you truly forget that Sylvia is played by a person and that is the reason for this play in the first place.  Ashford is incredibly talented.  She knows her craft and, although she’s been in so many productions already, she’s got lots more to give.  I said that in 1964 when I saw Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl on Broadway.  I turned around to my then boyfriend, now husband of 47 years, ‘this girl is going to be a star.’  The rest, my friends, is history.


Robert Sella, Annaleigh Ashford and Matthew Broderick - Photo Credit - Joan Marcus

Dogs are our children.  Sometimes they are nicer than our kids and they don’t borrow money.  Their love is unconditional, even though they eat the same thing, every day, twice a day for their entire lives; except for some ‘people’ food we may sneak them from time to time.  They snuggle up with us when we are sad, and jump around with us when we are happy.  They watch all the same shows on TV that we do just so they can get a belly rub.  The have that special ‘hiding place’ they go to when they know they’ve eaten our slippers or chewed up our garbage. They do a great job of pre-washing our dishes before they go into the dishwasher.  If we have a problem, we talk to our dogs about it, and for some reason, after they hear our problems, they help us solve it.  I know if you are not a dog owner you may not get that.  But, if you see the show you just might go out and get yourself a dog.  Dogs are truly our very best friend.  And to quote my husband’s conversation with my dog Julia recently, “If mommy wants to take a trip, Julia, we don’t care, we’ll be fine, right”?  I wouldn’t care so much about what he said to her, but did it have to say it while I was sitting right there?


Julie White and Matthew Broderick - Photo Credit - Joan Marcus

(Matthew Broderick), who plays Greg,  continues to be the monotone, deadpan actor who worked his magic in The Producers, as Sylvia’s owner and the husband who begs his, already stressed wife, Kate (Tony Award-winner Julie White), to please keep Sylvia.  The kids are grown and out of the house and she wants to start to ‘live her life’ without being tied down with a dog.  Its clear when Sylvia is literally attached to Greg’s leg and won’t let go, Kate will not be happy. Shame on Kate! Doesn’t she get it?

Give her time, she just might.


Julie White - Photo Credit - Joan Marcus

Sylvia is a play about middle-aged couples who are empty-nesters, and finally have the house to themselves.  If you haven’t experienced this syndrome, you will.  You look around the house, it’s quiet and yet, it’s missing something.  It’s missing a dog.  (Or cat, if that’s your preference).


Matthew Broderick and Robert Sella - Photo Credit - Joan Marcus

Because Sylvia can ‘talk’ you really do get to understand the language of dogs.  There are lots of laughs and that is solely because we can all relate. 


In multiple roles of Tom, Phyllis & Leslie, (Drama Desk Award winner (Robert Sella), a fellow dog walker, a transgender friend, and a hysterically funny ‘bigender’ shrink, respectively, does a superb job of filling each role.


Robert Sella - Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

What happens to Kate & Greg as they continue to spar over whether or not Sylvia can live with them is the theme of this show.  Relationships are challenged, decisions are made and unmade, and plans are solidified and then unsolidified as Sylvia slowly becomes an integral part of the family.


Among the many laughs I had, I also cried.  But, I won’t spoil that for you.  Just be sure to stay when the ‘run the credits.’  You’ll be happy you did. 

By the way, do you ever notice that dogs look like their owners, or vice versa?


My dog Julia and me - Photo Credit - Ellen Eichelbaum




1)      Sarah Jessica Parker, who originated the role of Sylvia 20 years ago, based her performance on (then-boyfriend) Matthew Broderick’s dog, Sally.

2)      The first play that Daniel Sullivan directed was A.R. Gurney’s Scenes from an American Life, with the Lincoln Center Repertory Company in 1971, for which he won a Drama Desk Award.

3)      Matthew Broderick first met A.R. Gurney when he was nine years old -- during rehearsals for Scenes from American Life, when he was visiting his father, cast member James Broderick.

4)      Sylvia is based on real events – an actual (and unique) love triangle in playwright Gurney’s life.

5)      75% of Sylvia's  cast members are dog owners (all for Robert Sella, a cat owner).

6)      75% of SYLVIA’s cast members have won Tony Awards (Mr. Sella is a Drama Desk Award recipient).

7)      Broderick’s family currently includes a rat terrier named Kissy.

8)      Julie White won her Tony Award for The Little Dog Laughed (which was not about a dog at all).

9)      Julie White’s dog Lulu made an appearance with her in the Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night, directed by Mr. Sullivan (the production also featured the humans Anne Hathaway, Audra McDonald and Raul Esparza).

10)   Annaleigh Ashford went to obedience and agility training (as well as sheep-herding classes) with her dog Gracie, a mini Australian shepherd, to prepare for her role.

11)   Renowned architect and designer David Rockwell has based his design on the dog walk that is located on 68th Street and Central Park West.

12)    Academy Award winning costume designer Ann Roth has designed 93 shows on Broadway – after this season her total will be 96 (she is also represented this season by Misery and Shuffle along…).


Sylvia is currently playing at the Cort Theater, 138 W. 38th Street, NYC. This is a strictly limited engagement, scheduled to close on January 24, 2016.   Go here for more information.


If you are considering bringing young children to this show, please consider that there is foul language in some portions of the production. 

 Photos are courtesy of Sylvia




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