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AT: Who Is Sylvia? A: Edward Albee Pf: 2002, New York Pb: 2003 G: Drama in 3 acts S: New York apartment, c.2000 C: 3m, 1fMartin, a successful prizewinning 50-year-old architect, liberal, witty, and humane, is happily married to Stevie, his intellectual equal. When his lifelong friend Ross comes to set up a television interview, Martin confesses that, beside Stevie, he has another love: Sylvia, with whom he has been having an affair for six months. When it transpires that Sylvia is a goat, Ross feels obliged to inform Stevie by letter. She and their gay son Billy angrily confront Martin, who tries to defend himself by declaring the beauty of his love for Sylvia. Billy storms out, and the desperate Stevie begins smashing up their apartment, before she too leaves. Martin and Billy are reconciled, and their love almost slips into homosexual incestuous lovemaking. When Ross arrives, Martin is furious that he betrayed his confidence. He had been to a therapy group, but everyone there was so sad, whereas Martin found fulfilment in his love of a goat; Ross was the only person left he felt he could tell his secret to. Stevie exacts a terrible and bloody revenge by slaughtering Sylvia and dragging her carcass into the apartment: ‘Are you surprised? What did you expect me to do?’

AT: Who Is Sylvia? A: Edward Albee Pf: 2002, New York Pb: 2003 G: Drama in 3 acts S: New York apartment, c.2000 C: 3m, 1f

In a world where all kinds of sexual freedom are now openly discussed in the theatre, Albee pushed the Broadway audience to the limits of its tolerance by offering a positive depiction of bestiality (although one assumes that they take Titania's affair with a donkey in their stride). However, Martin's obsessive love never seems sordid to him but is full of tenderness. In this play, subtitled ‘Notes Towards a Definition of Tragedy’, the choice of goat as a love object and ultimately sacrificial animal contains mythic and tragic resonance: there is a sense of inevitability in Stevie's revenge, and a feeling of catharsis when the innocent beast is sacrificed creating the potential for renewal.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights) — Theatre.

Reference entries

Edward Albee (b. 1928) American dramatist

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