Stevie thinks she and Martin have the perfect marriage. Their gay teenage son, Billy, thinks he has the perfect parents. Lately, however, Martin hasn't been himself. He's fallen in love, he confides to his closest friend. But the other woman isn't a woman. It is, well, a goat.
A play about taboos and the limits of tolerance, Edward Albee's The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? is receiving a solid, serious Baltimore premiere at Mobtown Players. With the exception of some physical details - particularly the large, important prop at the end - this is an adept, thoughtful handling of a difficult play.
Under Alex Willis' direction, Vicki Margolis and Michael Sullivan credibly suggest a long-married couple. Though Margolis' portrayal of Stevie initially feels a bit forced, Sullivan plays Martin with the remoteness of a man who has so thoroughly lost his way, he doesn't realize he's lost.
But Martin, an award-winning architect, cannot be taken lightly, and Sullivan imbues him with gravity. Like a building Martin might design, his family's stability is built on a firm foundation. But he fails to realize how dangerous it is to shake the bedrock.
Nor is the play merely about a specific family. As in Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or The American Dream, the characters reflect societal attitudes.
It is the representative of the younger generation, Billy (given a first-rate depiction by Michael Coene), who eventually responds with the most maturity, drawing on the wellspring of love his parents have given him. Also notable is the portrayal of Martin's outraged friend by Mark Squirek, who lets us see the toll the character's indignation takes on him.
In Albee's A Delicate Balance, an unnamed fear unhinges a family and their close friends. In The Goat, the fear has a name, but to most - and especially Stevie - it's unfathomable.
"We think we can handle ... whatever comes along, but we don't know, do we!" she says. The Goat asks whether the unthinkable is also unforgivable - then dares us to decide for ourselves.
The Goat continues through Oct. 21 at Mobtown, 3600 Clipper Mill Road. Tickets are $12. (Adult content and strong language.) Call 410-467-3057 or visit mobtownplayers.com.
Center Stage's production of Chekhov's Three Sisters has now had three Olgas (the eldest sister). Stacy Ross, the theater's original Olga, injured her back before the Oct. 4 matinee. Four performances were canceled before the theater - which does not use understudies - brought in Mhari Sandoval, who performed, script in hand, over the weekend. This week, Olga is being played by Lise Bruneau, a veteran of four Center Stage productions. Ross is expected to return later in the run.
In other Center Stage news, Motti Lerner's The Murder of Isaac, which made its American premiere at the theater last season, will receive a staged reading Oct. 30 in New York as part of the Public Theater's Now Work Now! series. Center Stage's cast members will reprise their roles under Irene Lewis' direction.
Etta may have been the shy member of the art-collecting Cone sisters, but Vivienne Shub's portrayal of Etta in The Cone Sister (scripted by Shub's own sister, Naomi Greenberg-Slovin) has been such a hit, Everyman Theatre has added six performances - Jan. 28-30 and Feb. 4-6 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call 410-752-2208 or go to everymantheatre.org.