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      A HUSBAND, A WIFE AND A....DOG: What's Funny About That? By Thomas Putnam


      I heard David Sedaris a few nights ago in Ithaca. The State Theatre was packed; everyone had to prove they were vaccinated and had to wear masks. No one complained and we all cheered when the State's executive director welcomed us back to live theatre. It was a cheerful moment.

      If you don't know David Sedaris, I believe you are missing something. He is an essayist or memoirist or just a very funny writer. He has an uncanny way of looking at ordinary events and finding something funny about them, but then he offers some keen insight or heart-wrenching commentary. I have always wondered how he does it.


      His father recently died at nearly 100 years old. His family members are often the focus of his stories. Sedaris read a wonderful account of their last meeting in a nursing home, just days before he died. You may have read this piece in the New Yorker last month. It's funny and tender and moving. Sedaris then went on to read a piece that has not been published yet. He explained that he usually reads his new work on his tours so that he can hear the audience reaction and that this helps to shape the final piece. In fact, while he was reading it, I noticed that he was making little notes on his paper. 

      The piece he read was a denouncement of his father's character. It included some horrific revelations about acts performed by his dad when David was growing up; acts involving him and his sisters. The acts themselves were not funny. And yet, Sedaris made it possible for us to hear it by finding something of humor in it. 

      Sedaris further explained that he had read another piece a few nights before and that the audience did not laugh once. He said he knows that there is a way to tell the story in a way that is accessible, and that mines the humor in it. He knows there is a way and he'll keep working until he finds it. I will be eager to read the published version of the story of his father's misconduct.

      So, a marriage that is going through a rough patch. A lack of communication. A lack of love? Is this the stuff of a comedy? Well, soon, we'll see how the playwright A.R. Gurney approaches it. He finds a way to make what could be a bitter, depressing, sad situation into a comedy. His method? Introduce a dog. As we have witnessed in the last 18 months of a depressing sad situation, the rise of dog sales has skyrocketed. Dogs have a way of making a everything better. This play has been around for a number of years and is still going strong, helping us see through a dark time as we enjoy the company of a canine.

      SYLVIA plays October 8, 9, 10, 15 and16. Grab your mask and reserve your tickets.


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