You might say Edward Albee delights in making his audiences uncomfortable. The playwright behind Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has no problem digging deep into the raw and rough parts of humanity to explore relationships, and his 2002 play The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? is a modern example of that.
It's a good fit with L.I.P. Service, an edgy fringe company that wowed last year with The Whale and here spares nothing with the verbal, physical, and emotional sparring of a family working through an unorthodox affair. In the intimate space, transformed by set designer Jamie Kinsler-Knight into the suburban living room of a well-off couple, there's no escape for the audience as a marriage falls apart and morals are grotesquely questioned.
So who is the goat? She's Sylvia, of course, a doe that Martin (Van Quattro) stumbles upon while hunting for a country home to share with his beloved wife of decades, Stevie. There's something in Sylvia's eyes, Martin recalls fondly, that causes him to upend his distinguished life and declare his love for a barnyard animal.
Stevie, of course, does not take it well. Morgana Shaw holds nothing back as the spurned wife who is left wondering what happened to the man she's shared her life with and how, exactly, one is supposed to deal with bestiality. Believing it his duty, family friend Ross (Jason Leyva) presents Stevie with Martin's confession, although it becomes clear that Martin's secret would have come out eventually.
Caught in the middle is Billy (Garrett Reeves), the couple's teenage son who's grappling with his own sexuality and the destruction of his formerly picture-perfect suburban life.
Albee spares nothing in his script, and director Shawn Gann follows suit with this production. The rage and confusion radiates from Shaw, bouncing off the quiet Van Quattro as he simply tries to explain his heart's yearnings. A note to those in the first row: you're in a splash zone, though not necessarily from liquids.
Usually presented in a tense 90 minutes, the show here is split with two intermissions. Oddly, this doesn't diminish the momentum, but rather gives the audience a little breathing room. It's a chance to prepare for each escalating scene, where the stakes rise ever higher and the emotions boil ever hotter. The finale is a shocker.
You may not want to see The Goat again for a long while after, but you'll definitely not want to miss it this time around.
L.I.P. Service's production of The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? runs through June 11.