“He can’t hear me. Do you have a gong or anything?” asked the character of Masha in a line that captures the signature style of humor laced throughout the American playwright Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”
The fall main stage theatre production, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” directed by David Fox, premiered this past Friday Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. in Wheaton’s Dorothy Littlefield Weber Theatre located within the Watson Fine Arts building.
Christopher Durang’s comedic play originally premiered on Broadway in 2013 and went on to win the Tony Award for Best Play that same year.
Centered on the lives of three siblings all reunited in their childhood home, the play puts forth scenes of strikingly familiar family bickering and strife. The characters Vanya and Sonia, brother and sister, live together in what was once their parent’s home. Masha, their sister, on the other hand, has managed to escape their hometown in order to pursue an acting career, which the audience comes to learn was not a wildly successful endeavor.
When Masha returns home with her significantly younger boyfriend Spike, family tensions rise to new heights. The bond between the three siblings is ultimately tested when Masha, who pays the bills for Vanya and Sonia, threatens to sell their childhood home.
The plot also features the characters of Nina, a young woman in whom Spike takes interest, and Cassandra, the psychic housekeeper.
Wheaton’s adaptation of the play stars Samuel Hickson ’17 as Vanya, Lorenzo Condemi ’19 as Spike, Christine Evers ’19 as Nina, Ebony Nefertiti Kennedy ’19 as Cassandra, Anastasia Tammen ’17 as Sonia, and Courtney Roque ’17 as Masha.
The setting of the play is, as the playbill states, “a lovely farmhouse in Bucks County,” and the entirety of the show takes place within the sitting room of the home. The minimalist set of basic wicker furniture, a rocking chair, a bureau, windows, curtains, a door and a staircase.
Strung throughout the script are frequent references to the work of 19th century Russian playwright Anton Chekov. Chekov’s plays the “The Seagull,” “Three Sisters” and “Uncle Vanya” were all mentioned in passing, and it is from these plays that the names of the three siblings are derived. Though knowledge of Chehov’s work would certainly serve to enhance specific understanding of “Vanya and Sonia,” a lack of such knowledge does not diminish enjoyment or blind audiences to overall themes.
Though the play is a comedy, there are several dark themes explored in juxtaposition to comedic relief. One such example is the ultimate frustration of Vanya in realizing his slipping faith in the world exclaiming, “I don’t think much is articulate in the world anymore.” Another such theme is attributed to Sonia and Masha’s realization upon reflection that they feel their lives have been utterly wasted.
In the midst of the world’s recent chaos, the play provided a space in which to take a step back and remember to do something basically human ⎯ to smile.
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” will continue to run this coming weekend with performances on Friday Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. and Saturday Nov. 18 and Sunday Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Categories: Arts and Culture