Make that one dog, a dog named Sylvia – already warming heats and winning praise at the Marian Theater in Santa Maria. The story of a man, his wife and his dog is set to grace the outdoor stage at the Solvang Festival Theater beginning July 9.

“Sylvia” written by A.R. Gurney, pulls out the well-worn plot device of a love triangle and then turns heel – or rather, paw – and replaces one of the three angles with a pet. The story begins with Greg – played by Peter Hadres – finding Sylvia in the park and bringing her home to the apartment he shares with his wife. Greg’s wife – played by Catalina Maynard – soon finds that the rescued stray is not only taking over her furniture but the affections of her husband as well. The sides of the triangle are pulled, questions are asked and laughs are dished out, in what play director Patricia Troxel called, “a very American kind of comedy.”

“In contemporary times, we want a really good laugh and this is pure delightful entertainment,” said Troxel.

She said the play would resonate with anyone who loved, owned or knew dogs. “It’s nice to delight in something you know, something you can come, see and relax,” she said.

Troxel also praised the performers. “This is a very good acting piece. You can see how good the actors are. Because the cast is so small, it’s a good place to showcase really great acting talent.” Stephanie Philo gets under Sylvia’s fur as the feisty canine. Although Philo has previously stepped into four-legged roles, she talked about the unique challenges preparing for Sylvia.

“I worked with the director to find out when I’m feminine and when I’m a dog. We tried to discover what it meant that the man was falling in love with Sylvia.” On top of delving into the emotions of the role Philo had another unique challenge. “It’s a very physical role. Lots of up and down,” she said. But mastering the idiosyncrasies of Sylvia was just part of the fun. “People get a kick out of the show and people get a kick out of the dog characteristics. I listen during the show to see how people react. And it’s the small things that make them laugh,” said Philo. Although Philo wasn’t familiar with the play when she heard about the audition, she fell in love with it. “It’s classically funny and touching. You connect with the story and I think it reveals true emotions. It reminds us of what we aren’t saying. You don’t realize you’re not saying things like, I love you,” she said. Sylvia will run through July 25 in Solvang. The PCPA reminds people with children that the play features Adult Language and Mature Themes. To find out more information or to buy tickets, visit www.pcpa.org.

Hot on the heels of Sylvia the Festival Theater will be hosting its fourth annual family night. The PCPA is inviting everyone to attend the event, which will include a barbecue and the final dress rehearsal of their next show “West Side Story.” The barbecue starts at 6 p.m. on July 29. Games and crafts for kids will be available and the dress rehearsal will kick off at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children. Children must be at least 5 years old to participate and adult supervision is required. Tickets for the family night can be purchased at the Solvang Festival Theater or by calling (805) 686-1789.

brookshire@syvjournal.com