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Saturday, August 5, 2000

It's a good thing Mom called me this morning to ask what time I was picking her up. I probably would have remembered that we had plans tonight, but there's no guarantee. I was even considering a movie this afternoon, or a hike through Howarth Park.

So I settled in for an intense day of doing nothing. Should I be packing? Probably not, since any move is at least five weeks away. But I've been thinking about it, strategizing, picturing things leaping from drawers and shelves into boxes (again).

Whatever genius at Fox decided we'd rather see the Cubs and Padres than the Giants and Pirates saved me from turning on the TV. I went about some household business while listening to the Giants game on the radio, but when the game turned sour (they were down, 7-2, a score by which they eventually lost), I hit the mute button and settled into my lounge chair by the patio door to read In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner, by Elizabeth George.

After a chapter or so, I felt my eyes closing involuntarily.

"This is pleasant," I thought to myself, in exactly those words, hence the quotation marks. "A nap."

I drifted off into a severely intense dream, of which I can remember no details, merely the sensation that I was in charge of some vaguely crucial project of unknown description and had just discovered that I was doing it absolutely wrong.

Something startled me awake, if not alert, after about an hour, but I was unable to move for several minutes. My head felt as if it had been stuffed with angry bees, and my eyes had apparently been sealed shut by uninvited faeries. (Don't you have to ask them to come in, or is that just vampires?)

This was not pleasant, although I might not have phrased it in precisely that way, incoherent as I was at the time.

Although my head never fully cleared, I soon pulled myself together and out of my chair. I puttered around the house for a while, setting one VCR to tape Big Brother, delayed until 10:00 because KPIX would be broadcasting the 49ers' latest loss, and setting the other VCR for Deep Blue Sea, a movie I probably wouldn't have watched even if I'd stayed home so why bother.

Then I settled back down and read another chapter. What use is a day off work if I can't take time to read?

Before I had a chance to fall asleep again, I had to get up and put on something appropriate for an evening at the theater. I like my new shirt.

I like string.

We take our summer evenings out rather casually around here.

Because the Santa Rosa High School auditorium is being renovated, the Summer Repertory Theatre was forced to use a different venue for three of the six plays they're performing this year. Newman Auditorium on the Santa Rosa JC campus is a charming little room with stadium seats and a tiny stage, which affected the program choices the company made.

So it was a little touch of serendipity that brought A.R. Gurney's Sylvia to that tiny stage. Four actors bring life to six characters, one of whom is a dog, and create an apartment, a park, an airport and an office out of a single, simple set.

Whatever I was expecting, having never seen Sylvia before, I got so much more out of it. It's a comedy with an incredible amount of heart, and the performances were laced with a depth of emotion that had me rooting for them to work out their problems and care for each other as much as the audience came to care for them. That's all I ask of art, really, is to give me someone to care about.

It's a play that can work on so many levels. It's about language and communication and how we understand each other. It's about a philosophical crisis and how it changes a man's life. It's about a relationship, and how a couple copes with the stresses that would tear them apart. It's about the nature of humanity, and how we fit into the natural world.

Mostly it's about having fun watching a human actress play the role of a dog (and Vanessa Severo in the title role exhibits canine spirit by the pound). The audience must have been filled with dog lovers, because they were chuckling with recognition from the first scene, when Sylvia enters and sniffs frantically around the unfamiliar apartment.

Her reaction to the other characters' entrances and exits, to the unseen other dogs, and to the ebb and flow of life in the city, is at times subtle, at times hilariously exaggerated. But it all works, and I was thoroughly charmed.

Since I'm the fellow who sits at the movie theater until the closing titles are done so that I don't miss any of the music credits, I was interested in the incidental music choices made for tonight's play. Classic versions of Gershwin tunes were played at intermission, and a few were used to highlight scene changes during the show, along with such obvious selections as "Puppy Love," "Hound Dog," "Walkin' the Dog," and "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?"

A technical problem kept the house from opening until the nominal curtain time, so there were just a few minutes of preshow music while the audience was ushered in. Someone with a sense of humor put together a mix tape that included original versions of "Kansas City," "I Love L.A.," "San Francisco - Wear Flowers" and "Philadelphia Freedom."

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I feel connected to my fellow creatures in a new and special
way, Sylvia... I feel part of some larger pack. Surely
you can understand that.

Nope. Thought I had it, but it slipped away.