Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

'Sylvia' star always dreamed of playing a dog

For more than 17 years, Kari Goetz held on to an abiding theatrical dream: She wanted to play the title role in A.R. Gurney's Sylvia.

"I've wanted that role ever since Sarah Jessica Parker played her on Broadway," Goetz said.

Then came an unexpected text message from her long-time friend Karla Hartley, who had just signed on to direct the Stageworks production of Sylvia.

"You've always wanted to play Sylvia, haven't you?" Hartley texted.

It was as if all the stars had aligned and the theater gods had conspired to rain down their blessings on Goetz.

Goetz and Hartley have both been stalwart and ubiquitous contributors to the Tampa Bay area theater scene for years, but Hartley had never had the chance to direct Goetz.

Goetz is primarily affiliated with Jobsite Theater, and has been working on her master's degree. She was just winding up her schooling, and her Jobsite duties had lightened temporarily

"It's the perfect role with the perfect director at the perfect time," she said.

When she got the text, she only had one question.

"I texted back, 'You're directing, right?' " and when she said yes I knew I had to have that role.

Hartley said Goetz was her immediate choice.

"When I found out I was directing, she was the one that came immediately to mind," Hartley said.

It's an unusual role, and one that not many actors could handle.

Sylvia happens be a dog.

"You have to be able to hit that fine line," Hartley said. "You have to be cute in a puppy way, without being sexy."

Sylvia concerns a couple whose nest has recently emptied as their kids have gone to college. They move into an apartment in Manhattan, and soon hubby finds the titular stray dog in the park. He brings her home, much to the consternation of his wife.

The husband starts doting too much on the dog (who, in the play, is heavily anthropomorphized) and forces crises in his career and his marriage. He spends more time on walks engaging with philosophical discourse with Sylvia and less time at work and at home. By play's end, he has to make a choice between his dog and his wife. His decision is influenced by Sylvia's piquant observations about the human condition.

Gurney's play has been called both a drama and a comedy. It could even legitimately be considered a romantic comedy, with the romance happening to be between a middle-aged man and his dog.

Gurney, who's now in his 80s, is a critically acclaimed American playwright probably best known for Love Letters, The Dining Room and Sylvia. His plays have been popular with theater companies' audiences around the country since the 1980s. His plays are clever, carefully crafted and substantial, but still possessed of a lightness that keep them entertaining.

The cast for the Stageworks production includes, in addition to Goetz, Elizabeth Fendrick, a longtime local actor who's recently returned the stage after an extended hiatus, Ricky Cona, who's been in demand in local theater for the past several years, and relative newcomer Harold Oehler.

Marty Clear is a freelance writer who specializes in performing arts. He can be reached at

>>If you go


When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Runs Thursday through July 15.

Where: Stageworks,

1120 E Kennedy Blvd.

Admission: $24.50, students, seniors and military $10 half an hour before curtain.

More information: (813) 251-8984 or stageworks

'Sylvia' star always dreamed of playing a dog 06/23/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 23, 2012 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politica

  2. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84


    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  3. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General


    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  4. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  5. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.