Christopher Durang’s comedy, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a hilarious farce that intermittently pokes fun at sibling rivalry, and Anton Chekov’s plays. Premiering Off-Broadway in 2012, it’s run on Broadway in 2013 garnered it the Tony Award for Best Play, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play, the Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play and the Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best New Play.
The zany plot introduces us to three siblings, single for different reasons and going through their own version of mid-life crisis. Vanya (Scott Treadway) and Sonia (Paige Posey) live in the family home, having given up the past 15 years to care for their elderly parents. Their melancholy turns to mayhem with an unexpected visit from their sister, Masha (Marcy McGuigan) who supported the family over the years as a Hollywood actress. In tow is her exhibitionist boy-toy, Spike (Drew Moerlein). To spice up the pandemonium, their clairvoyant, voodoo-practicing housekeeper Cassandra (Isabel Santiago) throws her outlandish predictions into the mix. As if that is not enough, Nina (Megan Yelaney), a young wannabe ingénue, pops in.
As the story unfolds, Durang throws several of elements from Chekov’s works into the blender. There are allusions to a dozen trees in the yard as a cherry orchard and the threat of the loss of the family home. The siblings are also named after Chekov’s characters, which Vanya explains is because their professor parents were avid fans of community theatre.
Although Masha, played with appropriate vanity by McGuigan, was named after one of the sisters from Chekov’s "The Three Sisters," she is actually more like the Russian playwright’s flamboyantly flawed Arkadina from the "The Seagull" whose visit disrupts the peaceful normalcy of her family's country estate with her endless demands and self-aggrandizing antics.
Similar to the twist from Chekov’s plot in "Uncle Vanya," Masha announces that her new personal assistant, Hoodie Haddie, has advised her to sell the family home. Dressed as Snow White for a costume party, she cannot take time to notice her siblings dismay because she is so furious that Sonia, who refuses to go as one of her dwarves, plans to go as the Evil Queen in Snow White. Here, Posey is fabulous with her multilayered theatrical impersonation of Maggie Smith.
Treadway seamlessly portrays the bookish, perhaps gay, Vanya as he struggles to subdue his sister’s sibling rivalry with comedic subtlety and then launches into an out of character rage about his play about global warming. As he attacks Spike for texting during the play’s reading, he mourns all that has been lost in his lifetime, from licking stamps for handwritten letters to black-and-white television with only a few channels.
Santiago bowls the audience over as Cassandra who, apropos to her namesake, gets possessed as she makes over the top predictions of doom that actually do come true. Moerlein takes full advantage of some the best comedic lines in the play as Spike, who spends much of his time onstage looking for excuses to strip down to his underwear. Yeager is also quite believable as the wide-eyed, wholesome ingénue.
What makes this comedy so worthwhile is the way the typical family feuds fired by regret and resentment are portrayed with humor. It reminds one of the bumper sticker that reads, “Let’s put the fun back in dysfunctional!”
The Flat Rock production, which plays on its Mainstage through May 25th, is directed by Associate Artistic Director, Lisa K. Bryant and played with great guffaw-producing gusto by the excellent cast, is well worth watching. As usual, the scenic design by Dennis C. Maulden adds to the play’s success, as does the costume design by Ashli Arnold.
Want to go? For more information, go to www.flatrockplayhouse.org.