Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang
Presented with permission by Dramatists Play Service.
Director: Craig Huisenga
September 12-27, Roebling Theater
Winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play! Chekhov meets comedy in a crazy whirlwind of characters and hilarity.
“Strongest comedy Broadway has to offer.” The Bottom Line
NOVA Center for the Performing Arts is excited to present the Montana premiere of the 2013 Tony Winner for Best Play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang. This hilarious new comedy will open NOVA’s 2014-2015 Season, running from September 12 through September 27.
Durang says he used the plays of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov as a jumping-off point. You don’t need to know Chekhov to enjoy Vanya…, but if you do, it is even funnier. The New York Times said, “There’s something deeply comforting about a master of antic psycho-comedy, delivering Chekhov’s lost souls from their eternal misery. Durang plays with Chekhov like a self-amusing cat toying with a tangled string.”
The NOVA production features some of Billings’ best actors directed by NOVA Managing Producer Craig Huisenga. The cast includes Jim McRae as Vanya and Dina Brophy as Sonia, a brother and sister who stayed at home for 15 years to care for ailing parents. Rebecca Spring plays their older sister Masha, a famous actress who aspires to perform the classics on stage but is notorious for a series of slasher films. Her boy-toy companion Spike will be played by Christopher Kellison-Decker. Rounding out the outstanding cast are Lisa Halpin as the clairvoyant housekeeper, Cassandra, and Lauren Lane as Nina, the naive, would-be actress who lives next door. When Masha comes home determined to sell the family estate and make everyone go to a party in the costumes of her choice, everything changes.
The insight into relationships is so accurate in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” it feels like playwright Christopher Durang has been spying on families for years.
He’s been reading a lot of Chekhov, too.
The beauty of this show, the season opener at NOVA Center for the Performing Arts, is that knowing a bit about Chekhov’s gloomy characters helps you find the humor. But it’s funny even for those who have never heard of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov.
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” opens Friday in the Roebling Theater at the NOVA Center for the Performing Arts and runs through Sept. 27.
The play is fresh, coming off a 2013 Tony Award for best play, and NOVA is among the first community theaters in the region to take a run at it. Craig Huisenga directs.
During rehearsal last week, Huisenga couldn’t stop snickering at the lines, even though he’s heard them all dozens of times.
“The cast and writing are so strong,” Huisenga said. “It’s some really good stuff. There are no slow moments.”
The cast includes Jim McRae as Vanya and Dina Brophy as Sonia, a brother and sister who stayed at home for 15 years to care for their ailing parents in current-day Bucks County, Pa. Rebecca Spring plays their older sister Masha, a famous actress who aspires to perform the classics on stage but is notorious for a series of slasher films. Her boy-toy companion, Spike, is played by Christopher Kellison-Decker. Rounding out the cast are Lisa Halpin as the clairvoyant housekeeper, Cassandra, and Lauren Lane as Nina, the young would-be actress who lives next door.
The show opens with the endearing Vanya, who is 59, and his adopted sister, Sonia, 52, lamenting the fact that they have never lived.
“I’m mourning for my life,” Sonia tells her brother.
Sonia evokes sympathy just before she starts smashing coffee cups. Then she’s seen as unhinged and unhappy.
In his downtrodden way, Vanya points out, “It’s been our burden in life — our parents giving us Chekhov names.”
Especially Vanya, who has suffered through having a woman’s name. Sonia goes for a lighter moment when she points out that at least her father “never molested me.”
The family dynamic changes when Masha returns home because she expects everything to revolve around her.
“I can’t remember dates or decades; I just live,” she says.
Masha is determined to sell the family estate, but before they can discuss it, she decides they should all go to a costume party with her playing Snow White and her siblings dressed as the dwarfs.
When Sonia bucks Masha’s direction and finds a sparkly costume to wear instead of Dopey’s dunce hat and knickers, the relationship between the sisters begins to flip.
Durang said he used the plays of Chekhov as a jumping-off point, then he put the characters in the blender to see what he could get.
Looks like this time he spun gold.