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THEATER REVIEW: "Sylvia"

There are dog people. There are cat people. And then there is Sylvia.

Sylvia is ... well, she’s a dog, apparently abandoned by her owner and picked up in the park by Greg (Daren Scott), a man whose job seems to be downsizing at the same time his 22-year marriage appears to be losing its sizzle.

Greg really, I mean really likes Sylvia with her wiggly butt, her desire to sniff and/or lick nearly everything within reach, her amazingly human train of thought and ability to communicate, and her oversized gratitude.

“You saved my goddamn life,” she says, and if you’re not careful you may find yourself forgetting she's a canine and wondering whether a lady dog would use such vulgar language.

But then, this Sylvia is Samantha Ginn, one of San Diego’s comedic treasures, playing the heck out of A. R. Gurney’s sometimes shaggy-dog story “Sylvia” through June 28 at New Village Arts Theatre.

The problem in this man-and-his-dog love story is Greg’s wife Kate (Saverina Scopelleti), a no-nonsense dog hater (“I like them when they belong to other people,” she tells Sylvia, who is not convinced). Kate wants a dog-free house. She is attempting to get her middle-school students to appreciate Shakespeare and doesn’t think adjusting to a canine either desirable or necessary just now.

There’s another character – well, three actually, all played by the redoubtable Tony Houck at the top of his form as a man, a woman and a person of indeterminate gender.

As Tom, owner of Bowser, reader of self-help dog books like “Play Now, Spay Later” and purveyor of advice to Greg on matters canine, Houck is funny, but the comic level increases exponentially in his later incarnations. He’s a hoot in purple and orange as Phyllis, come to plan a party with old friend Kate, and a total scream as gender-questionable marriage counselor Leslie, who sees something unhealthy about the faraway look in Greg’s eyes when he talks about Sylvia.

You could read significance into this play -- something about empty nesters, the dangers of long-term marriage, pets vs. spouses, whatever. But what’s the point? Director Kristianne Kurner has chosen a flawless cast and this show is played for physical humor, whether in canine antics or priceless expressions à la Houck.

So grab a friend and maybe a glass of wine at the theater, sit back and be prepared for an evening of just plain fun.

The details

“Sylvia” plays through June 28, 2015 at New Village Arts Theatre, 2787 State Street in Carlsbad.

Showtimes are: Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (858) 848-6949 or thenewgroupwest.com