Entertainment » Theatre

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

by Louise Adams
Sunday Sep 29, 2013
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Anthony Fusco (Vanya), Caroline Kaplan (Nina), Lorri Holt (Masha), Mark Junek (Spike), Sharon Lockwood (Sonia), and Heather Alicia Simms (Cassandra).
Anthony Fusco (Vanya), Caroline Kaplan (Nina), Lorri Holt (Masha), Mark Junek (Spike), Sharon Lockwood (Sonia), and Heather Alicia Simms (Cassandra).  (Source:Kevin Berne)

Christopher Durang’s latest comedy "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play and the left coast version runs at Berkeley Rep through Oct. 20th.

Echoing Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne’s Ten Chimneys estate in Wisconsin, the show is set in bucolic Bucks County, PA, where a community theater couple has left an idyllic manor to their Chekhovian-named children, complete with a cherry orchard (or at least a dozen trees, as the siblings debate).

Shuffling sad-sack Sonia (brunette Sharon Lockwood) is 52 and unmarried, and shares the lakeside mansion with her also unattached and unmotivated gay brother Vanya (bearded Anthony Fusco), embodying Firs’ "The Cherry Orchard" observation that "life has gone by as if I never lived."

Their old married couple-seeming grumblings are punctuated by the arrival of house-cleaner Cassandra (boisterous Heather Alicia Simms), who shares the gift of prophecy (and suffers the ignoring thereof) with her Greek namesake, and a precise command of voodoo.

Stage stalwarts will appreciate the "Waiting for Guffman"-like references to Stanislavsky and Meisner’s maddening repetition exercises.

Successful yet aging movie star sister Masha (blond Lorri Holt, giving off an Erica Kane/Susan Lucci vibe), who made her career in the "Sexy Killer" film franchise, arrives to attend a shindig at Dorothy Parker’s house down the road, bringing along her dim-witted mimbo Spike (lanky Mark Junek), who was almost cast in the "Entourage 2" movie and has a penchant for disrobing and performing parkour off the wicker furniture.

Turns out that Masha is paying the manse’s mortgage and household bills, so a struggle for Sonia and Vanya’s future percolates underneath preparations for the costume party. Masha dresses as the Disney Snow White, Spike as her vapid Prince Charming, Vanya as dwarf Doc and Sonia as Maggie Smith in a sparkly gown complete with an Angelina Jolie-esque leg-revealing slit.

Director Richard E.T. White’s direction is zippy to facilitate the rapid-fire cultural observations, and characters use every inch of Kent Dorsey’s sunroom set, from a breakfast nook to a makeshift theater in the living room where Vanya’s secret script about a molecule is presented. Stage stalwarts will appreciate the "Waiting for Guffman"-like references to Stanislavsky and Meisner’s maddening repetition exercises.

When his workshop presentation is interrupted by Spike’s texting, Vanya’s rant against the shallowness of modern technology is timely and accurate, yet feels Sorkin-esque in its obviousness as the author’s proxy. His Luddite leanings are apt, but what purpose does it serve? Chekhov’s Yasha agrees when he complains "What’s the use of talking?"

"Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" runs through Oct. 20 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA 94704. For tickets or information, call 510-647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org

Louise Adams is a writer, actor, educator, yogini and nom de guerre. @MzzzAnthrope

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