SAMANTHA KOLB | ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST
I had the privilege of attending the final Friday night performance of Christopher Durang’s“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”. The first eye-catching piece of the play is the set. Sitting in the theater awaiting the performance, the eye is drawn to a beautiful fireplace that commands the attention to the upstage area. There was a delightful simplicity to the stage, as it served as the morning room for the mismatched, argument-prone siblings whom the play follows.
For those unfamiliar with the premise, middle-aged siblings Vanya (Parker Drew) and Sonia (Kimberly King) live in the farmhouse where the play takes place; they took care of their parents until they passed away. Masha (Jane Oliver), the movie-star sibling who pays the bills, shows up with her newest boy toy Spike (Alex Sabin) and stirs up some drama in the otherwise placid life of Vanya and Sonia. A rather colorful clairvoyant housemaid Cassandra (Ann Prentiss Gray) pops in periodically to give warnings of doom, which eventually turn out to be accurate in some way or form. Adding to the conflict, lovely young neighbor Nina (Maggie Burie) becomes acquainted with the family and invokes a jealous streak in Masha when Spike’s attentions become diverted. Among other things, this is a story about family. At the end of the day, no matter how frustrating they may be, family is forever important and will always be there to listen to a Beatles song while watching the pond in the backyard.
What caught my attention was the little quirks each character seemed to possess. This was done in movement or in speech, and it held my attention during the performance. An example would be King’s interpretation of Sonia. Though the character is a touch dreary, there was a slight pep to the dreariness which made some scenes humorous. I thoroughly enjoyed Drew’s performance as Vanya, as there was a level of comfort he had on the stage which made him seem perfectly natural. The chemistry between King and Drew as siblings worked incredibly well, as the ebb and flow of love and hate came with ease, and I was convinced of the relationship.
Oliver’s conceited Masha made me despise her at times, though the character does show change at the end of the play. Her acting style reminded me of Sigourney Weaver, as there was an elegance in her body movements and speech. As for Masha’s beau, Sabin played a convincing oblivious young person, obsessed with texting and himself. He offered slapstick comic relief along with the housekeeper Cassandra. Gray’s clipped speeches of doom and destruction, followed by a cheeky voodoo doll moment delighted the audience and even received applause after one lengthy vision. The young Burie was a wistful addition to the sometimes tense moments, and offered a cheery smile or comforting encouragement when she wasn’t an ethereal molecule.
After having read this play for a class, and reading Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” it was easy to spot the references abound from the Russian author in this modern tribute. The only downside was how lengthy the show was—around three hours total; I did get a touch antsy in my seat. There were some longer pauses that could have been cut down without having any impact on the show itself. I was glad to have been able to see the production and was impressed with the array of talent on the stage and off.