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It?s only puppy love
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The last thing Greg expected when he walked into Central Park that autumn day was to fall in love.

Sylvia captured his heart with her winsome ways. So Greg took her home to his wife, Kate, who’s quite upset and increasingly jealous of this interloper.

“No wonder,” you say. “What wife wouldn’t be jealous of the other woman?”

But in this case, the other woman is a real dog. No, seriously, she really is a dog.

And when she jumps into Greg’s lap on that fateful day, he just can’t resist her charms. It really is a classic love triangle.

The Armstrong Atlantic State University Masquers will present A.R. Gurney’s off-Broadway canine comedy Dec. 1-3 and 8-10 at 7:30 p.m. in Jenkins Theater. The play contains mature language, so be forewarned.

When the play opens, Greg is successful, but finds his job as a currency trader unfulfilling. Once Sylvia offers her unconditional love, Greg finds his life has new meaning.

But his wife, Kate, doesn’t want a dog on her furniture -- or anywhere else, for that matter. Greg realizes he’ll have to choose between Kate and Sylvia.

Bess McCreary, a senior theater major at AASU, portrays Sylvia. “I’m not in a dog costume, although I do have a collar on,” she says.

“I just act as doggish as I can get,” McCreary says. “In the opening scene, I’m sniffing around the stage.”

It soon becomes obvious that Sylvia is a dog. “Greg is talking to me like I’m a dog,” McCreary says. “And I do bark.”

Sylvia also talks -- sort of. The audience can hear what she’s thinking, and she views Kate very much as a rival for Greg’s affection.

“It’s a very challenging role for me,” McCreary says. “I’m not normally one who plays comedy, I play the straight character. It’s a physically demanding role, as well.”

At AASU, McCreary has appeared in numerous productions, including A....My Name is Alice, Little Shop of Horrors, As You Like It and I Do, I Do.

McCreary is preparing for another major production. “I’m getting married in June,” she says.

“We’re going to stay here and save some money,” McCreary says. “Then we’re going to move to Chicago in a year or two. My fiance is an actor, as well, and we’re going to pursue acting careers.”

Also appearing in the production are Hai Dang, a computer science major appearing in his first Masquers production, as Gary, and Jamie Busbin, a theater major, as Kate.

The production is directed by Pete Mellen. “This is Bess’s capstone,” he says. “She wanted to do this play. I agreed to direct it.”

Mellen has a particularly challenging schedule -- there’s just a 21-day span between the first rehearsal to the first performance. But he’s not worried.

“I feel more confident in this production than I have many others,” Mellen says. “That’s because I have a very great cast.”

Also some great material to work with. Gurney is the author of several popular plays, including Love Letters. His playwriting career began when he joined the Navy during the Korean war and wrote shows to entertain military personnel.

Later, Gurney joined the faculty at M.I.T. in Cambridge. His first play was The David Show, which was produced in New York in 1968.

Gurney’s work focuses on middle class American life and its issues and realities. He has been given many awards, including a Drama Desk Award in 1971, a Rockefeller Award in 1977 and two Lucille Lortel Awards in 1989 and 1994.

Some of Gurney’s other plays include Scenes from American Life, The Dining Room, Children, Richard Cory, The Middle Ages and The Golden Age.

In 1991, Gurney adapted his own novel, The Snow Ball, for the stage. His other novels include The Gospel According to Joe and Entertaining Strangers.

Sylvia is particularly appropriate for one segment of the population. “Dog owners will love this show,” McCreary says. “It’s very true to the way owners react with their dogs. In this production, we get to hear what the dog says.”

The AASU Masquers will present A.R. Gurney’s comic play Sylvia Dec. 1-3 and 8-10 at 7:30 p.m. at AASU’s Jenkins Theater. Tickets are $8. Call 927-5381 weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.