(By Edward Albee: Directed by Mitchell Butel – State Theatre Company SA, 21 February 2023)
Albee wrote some killer lines in his time. He had a flair for haute psychomania. He also was very clever at combining comedy with drama. Alas, he fell short with The Goat, that descends to farce, and exchanges drama for histrionic displays of temper. Feydeau he wasn’t.
It was perfectly watchable the other night. Claudia Karvan, as Stevie, Nathan Page as Martin, and Mark Saturno as Ross, all deliver their overheated lines in an overheated (American) way. Newcomer Yazeed Daher, as son Billy, throws flamboyant tantrums. There are some good laugh lines. The set is a dream, an upper class, upper east-side architect’s pad with a woman’s touch, according to Good Housekeeping: very satisfying to see it becoming steadily trashed.
The problem is the play, a weird hot mess that fails as comedy or drama. Wikipedia tells us that Zoophilia was estimated to be prevalent in 2% of the population in 2021. So we find the concept of a Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architect with a happy marriage having sex, and falling in love, with a she-goat, to be simply unbelievable. Is it a metaphor for love rivalry? A savage attack on bourgeois society? A riff on the obsession with reputational damage? Who knows, or cares, really?
Martin (the architect), despite his outward success, has been distracted by his visit to a chichi farm and forming a love affair with Sylvia (the goat). He confides in his smug progressive friend who instantly reacts with prim conservative horror. For Martin, it is love, not betrayal, even though he attends a therapy group of beast-botherers to deal with his new situation. His wife, Stevie, takes the news badly, but she seems to fear a rival, rather than having Martin committed; after trashing their living room, she takes-off to confront said rival for an earnest girl talk (how she locates Sylvia is unexplained). The whole melange is a thin and mean goat-curry – lean meat on offer, but missing roti, rice and potatoes.