And yet Martin seems to hold firm to his love of Sylvia the goat. He separates himself from the perverts who have sex with animals, because they all have problems; they all loathe themselves, they detest their urges. Martin does not. And it is here that Albee poses the question: Is this worse than all the other perversions we’ve heard so much about? Martin’s friend Ross says that it would have been preferable to feel up little girls or boys, rather than have sex with a goat. But I don’t think the audience agrees. Because we’re on Martin’s side, believe it or not.
And this is what shocked me and what made me realize the brilliance of the playwright. Albee manages to portray Martin in such a sympathetic light that the audience loves him, roots for him, even though he’s having sex with a goat—an act that we, as a society, can never ever condone. He’s our guy, more or less, for better or worse, until the very end and we feel his suffering as his world falls apart. This is the genius of Edward Albee.
The production of The Goat – or Who is Sylvia?, which is being shown at the City Theatre (Borgarleikhúsið), by the Reykjavík Drama Company (Leikfélag Reykjavíkur) is, in a word, outstanding. The technical aspects of the show—lights, set design and so forth—are wonderful. In fact, this is the first time in years I’ve gone to a play without a single complaint about the technical side. The music, composed by Úlfur Eldjárn, and the sound design, by Ólafur Örn Thoroddsen, especially deserve praise. The whole soundscape of the show is minimalistic enough not to draw attention away from the action and dialogue and is just strong enough to enhance whatever emotion is needed at each given moment.
The actors do a wonderful job as well. Sigrún Edda Björnsdóttir delivers her rage and sorrow with amazing power, sending shivers down my spine at several moments during the show. Þór Tulinius delivers very well, although his part doesn’t give him opportunity to display his full potential as an actor. But it was Eggert Þorleifsson, who played Martin, that really caught me off-guard. Eggert is best known for comedy but has not been known for doing well in serious roles. In his performance in The Goat, however, he goes way beyond that. He delivers Martin’s anguish and shame impeccably. I only hope we get to see more of the same in his future roles.
The only real complaint I have against this production is the youngest member of the cast, Hilmar Guðjónssen, who plays Martin’s son, Billy. Hilmar is twenty years old and his performance reeks of inexperience. But all in all this is a very fine production of a wonderful play and I can’t reccomend it enough.
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