Guys, I saw a really fun play the other night! We were laughing out loud. I didn’t look at my watch once, I didn’t start squirming in my seat hoping for intermission, none of that. The play, by Christopher Durang, is called Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.
It’s about a middle-aged brother and his adopted sister who still live in their dead parents’ home. Then the other sister, who is a successful actress, comes home with her twenty-something boy toy and hijinks ensues. I went in completely cold, I didn’t look at the program before the show started or anything. Sometimes that is the best way to enjoy a performance because you don’t bother to develop any expectations about what you think you are going to see.
For me, the play starts off maybe sort-of melancholy, there is a lot of talking about missed opportunities and dissatisfaction with how their lives have turned out by Sonia and Vanya. Fortunately, all the bellyaching is broken up by shots of wackiness which gives all the brooding a funny air. And then there is this underlying, irrepressible optimism that is manifested in the character of Irina, the young ingénue from next door.
The highlight of the show by far is the character of Cassandra the housekeeper. In this production, the role is played by Svetlana Efremova who is just delightful. She plays this wacky character with effervescence and a graceful physicality. She’s like a lovely, playful kitten romping in and out of everyone’s drama. And her Russian accent just makes it so much better. She steals the show.
I think there are other Chekhov references beyond the names of the brother and sisters, but I’m not enough of a theatre buff to know what they were. I guess that is a testament to how good the play is because I totally enjoyed it without getting the inside jokes. If you know Chekhov, you may appreciate the play on a deeper level.
Toward the end of the play, Vanya has this eight-minute monologue about the world that he grew up in. It was wistful and sweet, and it went on long enough to make everyone a little uncomfortable. To me it sounded exactly like when Mr. Man goes on one of his “back in the day” rants, which made me laugh. I guess that everyone has heard someone’s version of that same thing at least a few million times.
If you are looking for a culture fix in the next couple weeks, this would be a fun show to catch. It was funny. The acting was great. I really enjoyed it.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at South Coast Repertory through October 21, 2018