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Man’s best friend

Lake Benton Opera House’s spring play shows a different kind of bond between a man and a dog

April 7, 2012
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

The upcoming production at the Lake Benton Opera House can be considered "doggone funny."

But it promises to have its serious moments as well.

The Lake Benton Opera House is presenting its spring play "Sylvia" at 7:30 p.m. April 13-14 and 20-21 and 2 p.m. April 15 and 22. The show is being directed by Mark Wilmes.

Article Photos

Photo courtesy of Mark Wilmes
Beth Reams, left, portrays a dog, Sylvia, who develops a bond with Greg, portrayed by Alan Riedel, in the upcoming show at the Lake Benton Opera House.

Wilmes said a relative of his had seen the show and recommended checking it out as a possibility for the Opera House. He enjoyed reading the script for the first time.

"I thought it was a very funny and touching and a unique perspective on the relationship between a man and his dog," Wilmes said. "I am a pet owner and can relate to a lot of what goes on in the play. Being a pet owner myself, it was an emotional experience reading what this family went through for Sylvia. Anyone who is a dog or cat lover will be able to relate to the show."

The play is about Greg, a middle-aged man who finds a dog, who is played by a human, in the park. He immediately takes to her and brings her home to the home he shares with his wife Kate. Kate isn't as fond of Sylvia as Greg is and wants her gone. But they agree to let Sylvia stay for a few days. Greg and Sylvia develop a strong bond with each other.

Alan Riedel portrays Greg. His take on the script was that it would be a fun show with a very unique twist that would pull in the audience.

"It's a comedy, but right at the end, it pulls at the old heartstrings," Riedel said.

Lori Jacobson, who portrays Kate, thought the script was "a bit of a strange one" when she first read through it.

"However, when I read it the second time, which was a much closer reading, I thought 'oh, this is going to be a great deal of fun to put together,'" Jacobson said.

As a director, Wilmes said he had someone in mind for the role of Sylvia.

"I actually had pictured one of the young actresses we've had in past play here at the Opera House for the part of Sylvia, but she was unable to make it work with her schedule," Wilmes said.

So instead, Wilmes cast Beth Reams, an Opera House veteran, as Sylvia.

"As it turns out, I couldn't have asked for more that what Beth puts into the part," Wilmes said. "She is splendid, very believable. Sylvia is presented in a way that shows what it would be like if your pet were actually a human part of the family and can carry on a conversation. It is a tough part to play and would be easy to play it too much like a real dog. Beth does a great job of injecting just enough real dog mannerisms into the part to strike a perfect balance."

Jacobson has never acted on the Opera House stage before, and it's been more than 15 years since she's been in a show. She said her character is not fully developed yet.

"I consider it an ever-evolving process," Jacobson said. "Of course, at the first practice I develop some base ideas and considerations, but my ultimate goal is to 'discover' the character along the way. The character only stops 'speaking' to me when the curtain closes on the final night."

Jacobson said she wasn't sure at first about being in the show, as it had been a few years since her last performance.

"But that fear dissipated immediately when I met Mark and the rest of the cast," she said. "They are all extremely talented and have such wonderful and amicable personalities. They made me feel like part of the group right away. But the best characteristic they all have in common is each person's fantastic sense of humor."

Riedel considers his character as a very timid version of himself.

"So it wasn't too tough," he said. "Trying to 'bond' with the dog, that took some practice and a lot of work not laughing."

Wilmes said the process of becoming a character in a play always evolves throughout the rehearsal process.

"They are all doing a great job of tweaking their characters each night and finding the right fit," Wilmes said. "I'm sure that they will continue to change slightly right up until opening night. Everyone in the cast is a veteran of many shows. It makes it easy to direct. They know what to do."

Wilmes said the language of the play is a little "salty."

"Especially when Sylvia runs into the cat at the park, but an overall wonderful experience," Wilmes said.

The actors said the audience will take away several things from the play.

"Maybe a new understanding of their significant other, both the husband and the wife in this show are in the right, it's just that neither understand the other's feelings," Riedel said.

"My hope after each performance is that the audience walks away very excited about telling others about the play," Jacobson said. "I want them to feel like they experienced the emotions right along with us and were able to relate to one or more of the characters in some significant way, even if it's minor."



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