The titular Vanya and Sonia and Masha are middle-aged siblings, named by their professor and community theater actor parents after characters in Chekhov's plays. Masha is a successful actor living in New York City, and owns the family home in rural Pennsylvania where Vanya and Sonia took care of their aging parents until their death, and where they are now stuck. Masha returns home with her new boy toy Spike to attend a rich neighbor's costume party and to inform her siblings that she's selling the house and they'll have to move out. Aspiring actor Nina, the neighbors' niece, comes over to express her admiration for Masha and gets entangled in the family drama, which includes not only the costume party but a reading of Vanya's absurd semi-autobiographical play. Rounding out this group of oddballs is housekeeper Cassandra, who, like her namesake, is destined to foretell the future and not be believed. The family yells, argues, throws things, and ultimately comes to some sort of comfortable peace with each other and the fact that "their lives are over."
|Sonia, Masha, Spike, and Vanya|
(Suzanne Warmanen, Candy Buckley, Joshua James Campbell,
and Charles Janasz, photo by Joan Marcus)
Unlike his gigs at the Jungle where he also designs the set, Joel Sass merely directs here, keeping the hilarity moving but not getting out of control. Todd Rosenthal gets the credit for designing the lived-in, comfortable country home, with community theater posters on the wall and tchotchkes on the tables.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a play that doesn't take itself or its characters too seriously, even poking gentle fun at theater itself. Spending an evening with these crazy characters is great fun, and a pleasant end to another wonderful season at the Guthrie (playing through August 31).
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.