Comedy ‘Sylvia’ to debut this week with pay-what-you-can preview

A.R. Gurney’s 1995 comedy “Sylvia,” the story of a New York couple whose marriage is put to the test thanks to the presence and opinions of their titular furry friend, will be presented April 25-May 12 by the Human Race Theatre Company at the Loft Theatre.

Get a sneak preview on Wednesday, April 24 during Pay What You Can for Sylvia at 8 p.m. at The Loft.

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To gain admission, bring a cash donation to benefit the Humane Society of Greater Dayton or a canned good/non-perishable food item for The Foodbank, Inc.

Seating is first come, first served, with tickets given out in the Loft Lobby starting at 6:30 pm. One ticket per person and you must be present to receive a ticket. Students receive 50% off full priced adult tickets. Visit Ticket Center Stage for details.

Credit: Heather Powell

Credit: Heather Powell


Middle-aged Greg can’t get enough of Sylvia, an adorable mutt he finds one day in the park. But the moment he takes her home, sparks fly. Greg views Sylvia as a positive outlet, an escape from the daily grind of professional unhappiness. However, in the eyes of his wife, Kate, Sylvia is a rival for her husband’s affection, leading to a love triangle that is at times hilarious and revelatory.

The Human Race production consists of Alex Sunderhaus in the titular role, Jason Podplesky as Greg, Human Race Resident Artist Jennifer Joplin , and Rory Sheridan in multiple roles as Tom, Phyllis and Leslie.

“‘Sylvia’ was first produced by the Human Race in our 10th season,” explained Artistic Director Kevin Moore. “And it has now been four years since the Broadway production. And what is clear is our relationship with our pets do not change. It is a commitment that we take very seriously. And is why we can find so much humor in it still.”

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“I love this play because how often do we think, as pet lovers, what they heck are (our pets) thinking?,” said director and Human Race Resident Artist Marya Spring Cordes. “Well, we get to find out in this play because the actress playing Sylvia is speaking human words embodying the traits of a dog. So, it’s a really lovely juxtaposition and fantasy world for us who love our pets so much to get inside their brain and watch them in human form contact us in a way that feels very familiar but can also be a little bit mysterious sometimes. And the other great thing (about the play) is (the fact) that pets train us. We get an insight into how Sylvia trains half of the family. It’s also a charming love triangle because there is a wife in this equation who isn’t as excited that this stray came home unexpectedly. So, it’s an interesting journey of how two people who have been together a really long time go through a pretty substantial conflict over where they are in their lives and how another partner in their partnership can cause a lot of navigation.”

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Portraying man’s best friend

Wright State University alumna Alex Sunderhaus, a hilarious knockout last season as Lindsay in the Human Race’s regional premiere of “The House,” is thrilled to tap into her comedic gifts of physicality and expression in the demanding titular role. She’s incorporating traits she recalls growing up with a dog of her own named Murphy while honing in on her own imaginative inklings.

“My process is mainly to find connection, whether it’s Sylvia to the other characters in the play or myself to Sylvia,” she said. “My process was internal first and physical second. This is also the first time I’ve had this type of physical requirement for a role. It is a lot of up and down, a lot of energy. Although natural adrenaline helps, I do find I’m exhausted after a long rehearsal, physically and mentally because I’m ‘on’ the entire show. But I’m a pretty active person so this experience hasn’t been taxing in a way that I’m hurting myself. It is a lot of physical work, but what’s been nice about the rehearsal process is that I’ve been able to explore physically. Some rehearsals I may spend time on the floor for a moment or sit on the couch for another moment. There is freedom to go where my body leads me.”


What: "Sylvia"

When: April 25-May 12; 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings; 7 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings; and 2 p.m. Sunday matinees

Where: Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St., Dayton.

Cost: $37-$55 for adults; $34-$48 for seniors; and $19.50-$27 for students. Prices vary depending on performance date.

Discounts: Select side-area seats available for $14 and $27 at all performances; "Sawbuck Sunday" April 28 at 7 p.m. – $10 seats available for walk up sales only.

Tickets: Call (937) 228-3630 or visit or

Special event: On May 7 at 5:30 p.m., the Human Race will host a "Puppies and Pints" event at the Loft Theatre in which craft beer and furry friends up for adoption will be on hand. The event is sponsored by the Humane Society of Greater Dayton and Toxic Brew Company.

Advisory: "Sylvia" is rated PG-15. Some material may be inappropriate for children under the age of 15.

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