Do 10 cherry trees qualify as an orchard? Can three middle-aged siblings named for Anton Chekhov characters make peace with their pasts and with each other?
Christopher Durang’s Tony Award-winning “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” is generally described as a comedy, but the Checkhovian elements and brilliant writing usher in some powerful dramatic moments.
Savannah Repertory Theatre’s current production of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” gets it right on all counts.
And you don’t need to know anything about Chekhov to enjoy the play’s twists and turns.
The production has many laugh-out-loud moments and occasionally threatens to veer into farce, but the deeper themes take hold early and never let go. Durang and Savannah Rep have a lot to say especially to those of us dealing with the loss of loved ones and the need for middle-age reinvention.
The play opens with Vanya (Bash Halow) and Sonia (Karla Knudsen) starting yet another pity party on an average day at the home where they have lived all their lives. The bickering brother and sister seem stuck – in life and in the house – for reasons that don’t become clear until later in the play.
But this is no normal day. The clairvoyant housecleaner Cassandra (Kelsey Alexandria) arrives with dire over-the-top warnings, and we soon learn that the third sibling Masha (Meg Kelly Schroeder), who has achieved some fame as a film actor, will be arriving soon from New York City.
Masha is traveling with her much younger boyfriend Spike (Neal Davidson), an overly confident would-be actor with an exhibitionist streak. After a comical striptease as he prepares for a swim in the pond, Spike meets the young Nina (Amie Dasher) from next door and brings her into the strange fold.
And it is a strange fold indeed. Masha is visiting for a costume party at Dorothy Parker’s old house; she expects the other characters to play the supporting cast to her Snow White.
Masha is soon reminded that she does not have as much control as she thinks, while Vanya and Sonia reckon with the limits they have set on their own lives.
Director Sandra Karas varies the pace of the production expertly – the quieter moments never get lost amidst the manic ones. The top-notch performances are enhanced by the subtle choices in the set, sound and lighting design.
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” sold out the opening weekend Sunday matinee that I attended. Advance tickets ($25 with discounts for online purchases) are highly recommended for the final weekend. Performances are 8 p.m. on March 6, 7 and 8 and 3 p.m. on March 8.
Savannah Repertory Theatre is located at 980 Industry Dr. in West Savannah.
Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email email@example.com.
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