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ECHO Players to stage production of ‘Sylvia’ at Village Theatre in Qualicum Beach

Performances to run from Feb. 17 until March 6
Colleen Janssen, right, who plays Kate, stares angrily down at Francesca Reside, left, who plays Sylvia, during a rehearsal on Feb. 6 of the ECHO Players production ‘Sylvia’. (Gerard Janssen photo)

ECHO Players is set to present a romantic comedy about a dog and the tension between an empty-nest couple from New York.

Sylvia, by A. R. Gurney, will be performed by the ECHO Players at the Village Theatre in Qualicum Beach between Feb. 17 and March 6 and directed by ECHO vice president, Don Harper.

As told by Harper, the play focuses on a dog adopted by a couple in their 40s. The couple’s children have left home and the husband, Greg, finds himself unhappy at his job, while his wife’s career is just taking off.

One day Greg goes to the park while playing ‘hooky’ from work and meets a dog, Sylvia, who he establishes an immediate and powerful bond with. When Sylvia is brought home, the wife, Kate, is not particularly enamoured with having a dog come into their lives as their social life and job prospects abroad seem suddenly threatened.

Greg, however, is just as committed to the dog as she is to him.

“The play is about resolving the tension between Sylvia and Kate,” said Harper, who was first introduced to the play approximately 30 years ago when he saw it performed in Grande Prairie.

“So when the opportunity came forward, I jumped at it… The reason I’ve felt that way is that it’s a hilariously funny comedy. And at the same time, there are very poignant moments in it that really counterbalance.”

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Harper said the play is particularly appropriate for a Parksville Qualicum Beach audience because of all the dog lovers he’s seen in the community.

“If you go out anywhere, you’re going to see dozens of dogs – everybody’s walking their dog. And if you watch a dog owner interacting with their dog, they will talk and tell the dog things and then stand there quietly and observe as the dog kind of looks at him as if understanding what he said. It looks like there’s a conversation going on. And what this play does is give you the insight as to exactly what the owner and the dog are saying to each other.”

The character of Sylvia does have a speaking role and “lifts the veil’” between those often one-sided talks as she and Greg share long and intimate conversations. It also portrays the lengths a person will take for an animal they love.

“What people will do to save their pets here is amazing,” said Harper.

As a self-proclaimed cat-lover, he said he still appreciates the sensitivity Gurney brings to the play in terms of understanding people and their pets.

“There’s lots of humour but there’s also some very poignant and, I would say, uplifting messages. There’s also very touching parts in terms of the resolution between the wife who doesn’t want the dog and the dog who tries to win the wife over. So it’s very touching in the end. And they’ll be a few tears in the audience as well.”

READ MORE: REVIEW: ‘Yesteryear’ from ECHO Players is hilariously uplifting and uproariously funny

Sylvia is the first of Gurney’s work that Harper has directed, as he prefers doing both comedies and heavier dramas in a balancing act.

Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, rehearsals have been a challenge in keeping up with public health orders.

Harper said, up until this point, actors have worn masks during rehearsals which brings some difficulty in terms of establishing characters and relationships.

“Usually when you’re carrying a conversation with somebody, you’re responding as much to their facial gestures as you are to their words,” he said.

At the time, the actors are not planning to wear facemasks during performances, but that aspect will always be subject to whichever public health orders are in place during each performance.

Audience members, however, will still have to adhere to the theatre’s protocols in terms of providing vaccination proof and by wearing a facemask throughout the performance.

Rehearsals started approximately three months ago when the play was cast, with only a two-week break for Christmas. They’ve been mostly in-person with a few virtual meetings to accommodate an out-of-province cast member over Christmas break, where character and basic script work was done.

Returning with Harper is the actor who plays Sylvia who was also in a previous play of his titled Almost Maine in 2019.

Ticket information for Sylvia can be found at or by calling 250-752-3522.

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Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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