Edward Albee’s “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” is supposed to make you uncomfortable. It’s a tale of a perfect American family that falls apart when infidelity strikes.
In this case, the infidel is in love with a goat, named Sylvia. Despite outward appearances, this is not a play about bestiality; at its core, it’s a tale about humanity.
Part of the appeal of this cringe-inducing, Tony Award-winning, laugh riot of a play is that the dark humor you’re embarrassed to be seen laughing at leaves you wondering about love, lust and just how much people will put up with to sustain their seemingly idyllic existence.
Bad Habit Productions’ adaptation never really finds the humor at its core, leaving several scenes feeling dull and its players seemingly in need of an oxygen infusion. Only Luke Murtha, playing the incredibly well-adjusted gay teenage son Billy, consistently delivers Albee’s laugh-inducing zingers with any real success.
The remainder of the ensemble feels largely lackluster and misguided. Veronica Anastasio Wiseman never captures the fragility or rage of scorned wife Stevie. She should vacillate between being as shattered as the pottery she’s, well, shattering, to being angry enough to exact bloody revenge all in the name of protecting her family. Even Wiseman’s primal screams feel staged.
Steven Emanuelson fares better as the goat-loving Martin, making you feel both repulsed by his actions yet somehow sympathetic to his plight. There are two powerful scenes involving kisses that Emanuelson imbues with enough humanity to make you feel real compassion for this flawed human being. But his scenes with best friend Ross (Dale Young) are almost unforgivably boring.
Kevin Deane Parker’s set is incredible and Sylvia’s brief appearance is impressive. But a beautiful home and a fine looking specimen of goat aren’t enough to carry the weight of this Albee play.
“The Goat, or Who is Sylvia” runs through Aug. 23 at the Calderwood Pavilion.Tickets are $20-$28 at www.badhabitproductions.org.