by Irene Morse
Special KRL coupon code at the end of this article.
What happens when Anton Chekhov meets Christopher Durang? The answer is a comedy that is unlike anything either of them has ever written before, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. The Visalia Community Players are proud to round out their 2015-2016 season at the Ice House Theatre with this comedy about a quirky family.
Although it looks like the three siblings will live the unfulfilled lives of the Chekhov characters their scholarly parents named them after, Durang has given them more humor, and a happier ending. Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote that it was, “…a sunny new play about gloomy people.” It won the Tony award for Best Play in 2013. The Players’ production is directed by Keith Lindersmith.
Vanya lives in their ancestral home with his adopted sister, Sonia. The roles are portrayed by Donny Graham and Nancy Holley. While Graham feels like Vanya lives “somewhat happily in the now,” without too much thought for the future, Holley believes Sonia “wishes for more.” They remained at home caring for their ailing mother and father, and neither has moved on since the deaths of their parents.
The family home is actually a farmhouse located in a cherry orchard—if ten trees can be described as an orchard—in Pennsylvania. The family once enjoyed an affluent lifestyle, but the house is currently heading toward seedy. The same might be said of the siblings who cling to it.
Masha, on the other hand, is an acclaimed actress who supports her siblings financially. Susan Mathews plays the aging film star who arrives for a visit with her boy-toy, Spike. Michael Seitz plays the young companion.
When, Nina, the beautiful niece of the next-door neighbor appears on the scene, sparks fly. The ingénue, played by Celina Lim is an aspiring actress who catches Spike’s eye. Mathews reports that Masha has enticed Spike to “cover for age issues,” and she’s not going down without a fight.
Behind all of this humorous turmoil, lurks Cassandra, the housekeeper. Cassandra, played by Kim Robinson, is a soothsayer who insists on continually predicting a gloomy future.
Masha organizes a costume party in which the participants are all required to dress as Disney characters from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This provides ample opportunity for humor as well as intrigue. Narcissistic Masha, dressed as a very sexy Snow White, is stunned to see her usually obedient sister dressed as the Evil Queen, rather than the expected dwarf. Whiney, disillusioned Sonia has decided to come out of her shell and “seize the day.”
Meanwhile, Spike is looking for opportunities to show off his muscular body, Vanya is trying to keep the peace, Nina is appreciating Spike’s sculpted visage, and Cassandra is using a voodoo doll to keep Masha from selling the house.
Seitz reports that he thinks the play is like a “Greek tragedy in a modern home,” only funny. Most of the cast members have found Chekhovian moments in the play. Graham relates to Vanya’s remorse for always being in the “middle of the road,” not living life more fully. Mathews reports that Masha wonders why her parents had to adopt another girl since it “got in the way of attention on me.” Holley understands why Sonia felt obligated, as an adopted child, to be the parental caretaker. There are many Durang moments also, in the power of his language and keen comedic timing.
In a departure from the usual Chekhov fare, Durang leaves the siblings sitting together in harmony, the future looking better than they might expect, and The Beatles singing Here Comes the Sun.
The show opens Friday, June 10, 2016, with evening performances 6/10, 6/11, 6/17, 6/18, 6/24, and 6/25 at 7:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. matinees on 6/12, 6/19, and 6/26.
For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.
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To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLVSM in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website.