Shakespeare & Company's 'VANYA & SONIA' to Begin 8/6

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Shakespeare & Company's 'VANYA & SONIA' to Begin 8/6

With a healthy dose of hilarity, heart and humility Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike joins the Bernstein repertory with director Matthew Penn at the helm. Christopher Durang's Tony-award winning homage to Chekhov leaves no stone unturned when it comes to family dynamics, sibling rivalries, love, lust, hopes and dreams in this razor sharp comedy. The stalwart cast includes audience favorites Tod Randolph and Elizabeth Aspenlieder, and S&Co. newcomers Jim Frangione, Angel Moore, Mat Leonard and Olivia Saccomanno. Performances run in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre August 6 - September 14. Press Opening is Friday, August 15 at 8:00pm. To RSVP or for interview opportunities contact Communications & Press Director Elizabeth Aspenlieder: aspenlieder@shakespeare.org.

OBIE Award-winning playwright Christopher Durang sets his newest comedy in a rural Pennsylvanian family farmhouse, where Vanya and his adopted sister Sonia find their lives turned upside down when their narcissistic movie star sister, Masha, shows up with her prized and much younger boyfriend Spike. With a series comic twists, turns, and surprises Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike pays loving tribute to Anton Chekhov's classic themes of loss and longing, as the Russian playwright is turned on his ear in this clever comedy primed for our social media-minded and modern world. Durang (Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, The Marriage of Bette & Boo and Laughing Wild) garnered national recognition netting the Tony Award for Best Play in 2013 for its Broadway run.

"With Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Christopher Durang has succeeded in writing a play that is both a satire of, and tribute to, the works of Anton Chekhov," says Penn. "What is wonderful about this play is whether you are a Chekhovian theater scholar or a casual theatergoer, there is fun to be had by all. Durang brings three adult siblings together who battle the jagged issues that have kept them apart for years. While Vanya and Sonia battle the monotony and repetition of the dull life that surrounds them, their sister Masha struggles with a life in which she is adored by many but loved by few. In these precious days while facing an impending crisis they make an effort to find each other again. They try to understand what is missing in their lives and try to attain what they believe they have lost and it is here where Durang and Chekov intersect. Both writers portray lives stuck in emotional grown-up despair in which change and therefore hope are elusive-and yet in Durang's comedically adroit hands that despair is quite funny....sometimes hilarious. As one of the characters says, 'If everyone took anti-depressants Chekov would have had nothing to write about'- it is this kind of affectionate wit that characterizes the play and perhaps urges us all to take a chance and change our lives for the better."

"I'm excited to be working with such a dexterous and talented cast, who are really adept at comedy," continues Penn. "I've worked with Jim for over a decade between Berkshire Playwright's Lab and other projects in NYC, and had the pleasure of working with Elizabeth last season in The Beauty Queen of Leenane-and I promise there will be no blood or murder in this play-we'll keep the bloodshed in the rehearsal room" he says with a laugh. "I am also very happy to have a chance to work with long time Company actor Tod Randolph, whose work I've admired for many years and new comers Mat Leonard (who is also doing double-duty and acting in Julius Caesar), Olivia Saccomanno and Angel Moore-all of whom are just terrific."

Of note, Penn and Frangione are Co-Artistic Directors of The Berkshire Playwrights Lab, along with Joe Cacaci in Great Barrington, MA. S&Co. has been teaming up more and more with BPL on several projects including the Company's 2013 Studio Play Series reading of An Impossible Life (directed by Cacaci and written by David Black), and recently with a new Jane Anderson play, Mother of the Maid that featured Company actors Tina Packer, Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Nigel Gore, and Kaileela Hobby that ran in BPL's Staged Reading Series.

Christopher Durang is the playwright of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Selected plays include A History of the American Film (Tony nomination, Best Book of a Musical), The Actor's Nightmare, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You (Obie Award, Off-Broadway run), Beyond Therapy (Broadway), Baby with the Bathwater (Playwrights Horizons), The Marriage of Bette and Boo (Public Theater, Obie Award, Dramatists Guild Hull Warriner Award), Laughing Wild (Playwrights Horizons), and Durang Durang (an evening of six plays at Manhattan Theatre Club, including the Tennessee Williams parody For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls).

Matthew Penn, second season with S&Co., director of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and last season's The Beauty Queen of Leenane, began his directing career at New York's Ensemble Studio Theater but is best known for his work in episodic television where he has directed and /or produced over 150 episodes of some of TV's best known series. His credits include: Law and Order, Damages, The Sopranos, House, NYPD Blue, Royal Pains, The Closer, Private Practice, Golden Boy and the new Netflix series Orange Is The New Black. Penn was nominated for an Emmy for the 200th episode of Law and Order starring Julia Roberts, and was the show's Executive Producer for four seasons during which time he produced nearly 100 episodes. He has had roots in the Berkshires for over 40 years and is a co-artistic director of the Berkshire Playwrights Lab.

For tickets, Gift Cards and information about the 2014 Performance Season: visit www.shakespeare.org, or call the Box Office at (413) 637-3353, or stop by in person at 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA. Ticket prices for The Bernstein Theatre range from $10 to $60, with discounts from 10-50% off regular ticket prices for Groups, Students, Seniors, Teachers and the Military. Our very popular 40% Off Berkshire County Residents' Discount is again available. Both the Playhouse and Bernstein theatres are wheelchair accessible and hearing-aid assisted. To learn more about the season, discount availability, to order tickets or request a season brochure, visit www.shakespeare.org. Groups: For bookings, parties, and special event rental information and details contact David Joseph, Director of Sales & Group Tours, at (413) 637-1199 ext. 132 or groupsales@shakespeare.org.

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