“Sylvia” opens a two-week run at 7:30 p.m. on Friday July 16 at the Chief Theater in downtown Bemidji. AR Gurney’s 1995 off-Broadway play is about a dog, the couple who adopt him, and the comedy that follows.

“This play speaks to a lot of people who own pets,” said Mike Ricci, who runs his fourth show at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse. “It shows how important pets are to their owner’s life and their mental health. It’s also about what pets can do in a marriage. Once the children are gone, the animals can take the place of a spouse. This is a problem that arises in the room; the dilemma this couple finds themselves in.

The piece is unique in that the dog, named Sylvia, speaks. Not with barks, but with words.

“The dog is very fiery and quite straightforward,” Ricci said. “She has a bit of a pot mouth and makes it clear how she feels about everything. Sometimes she expresses herself quite boldly.

From left to right :

Left to right: “Greg” played by Nick Menzhuber, “Sylvia” played by Kaitlin Johnson and “Kate” played by Jen Farrell rehearse a scene from Paul Bunyan Playhouses’ production of “Sylvia” which will begin at 7:30 pm on Friday July 16 at the Chief Theater. (Annalize Braught / Pioneer Bemidji)

There are only four actors in the cast, although one of them plays three different characters. The husband is played by Nick Menzhuber of Minneapolis. Jen Farrell of Plymouth plays his wife, Kaitlin Johnson of Winona plays Sylvia. Jonah Smith of Evansville, Wisconsin plays three smaller roles, including Leslie, a therapist who works with the main couple.

“Sylvia” is new to veteran director Ricci.

For me, as a director, it’s really nice to discover something new, ”he said. “There’s a message there if you want there to be one, but it’s also a very humorous, light-hearted comedy, which we all need in these times.”

The hours of “Sylvia” are at 7:30 pm on July 16, 17, 22, 23 and 24; and at 2 p.m. on July 18 and 21. Tickets cost $ 25 for general admission, $ 20 for matinees, and $ 15 for students. They can be purchased online at thecheftheater.com, by phone at (218) 751-7270 or at the Chief Theater box office.

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