Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike puts the "dysfunctional" in family as it opened on Friday March 21 at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Written by Christopher Durang the play directed by Eric Rosen, Artistic Director for the KC Rep, is a co-production with Baltimore's Center Stage. One audience member stated, "It is so natural that you no longer feel like you're watching a play, but rather become a member of the family."

Rosen assembled a magnificent cast of veteran actors that provide a hilarious, sidesplitting romp into the lives of the three siblings, each named for a character in an Anton Chekhov play. Masha is a successful but aging actor who, with her current fling Spike, returns to the home where she grew up. Sonia the sister with low self-esteem, and lives with Vanya the brother who spent most of their adult life caring for their parents. Cassandra is the housekeeper who sees herself as a self-professed clairvoyant and voodoo practitioner. Nina is the beautiful neighbor and aspiring actor befriended by Vanya.

Tom Aulino plays Vanya who agrees to let Nina read for the family from a play he has written. His comedic timing is excellent but the true measure of his performance is the powerful and strong rant he performs in Act II. His rage erupts on stage as he shrieks at Spike and anyone else that crosses his path.

Barbara Walsh who develops her character from a subdued, introverted, unpredictable woman to one who defies her sister and builds self-confidence portrays Sonia. Her characters volatility brings an uproar of laughter from the audience throughout the production and is especially demonstrated as she dresses as Maggie Smith playing the evil queen in Snow White. She gives a superb performance as she whines about her lack of a life one moment and in the next moment looks out the window for the blue herring.

Mary Beth Fisher plays Masha, the actor sister who dresses as Snow White for the costume party they attend. Fisher gives a wonderful performance as she develops her character from the arrogant, self-centered sister to discovering the truth of what has unfolded.

Vanessa Severo plays the housekeeper Cassandra who enters in a tirade about the future she has seen. Several times during the production, Severo steals the scene as she switches the mood of her character from an outburst of "Beware of. . ." to a subdued "I'll get your coffee." She has demonstrated in this and other performances, Venus in Fur among others, the ability to change her characters persona at the blink of an eye.

Zachary Andrews plays Spike the actor who auditioned and almost got a part in an HBO production. He recreates his audition for Vanya, Sonia, and Masha and gives a hilarious portrayal of a second-rate, self-centered actor. To the delight of Vanya and the audience, a large portion of his time on stage he is undressing or half-dressed. Andrews previously appeared with the KC Rep in Romeo and Juliet and A Christmas Carol. His one-man show Dracula: The Journal of Jonathan Harker at the Coterie opened to rave reviews.

Emily Peterson rounds out the cast as Nina, the aspiring actor who Masha sees as a threat. As with each character, she has a monologue that she delivers with perfection. It would be hard to say that she has a supporting role as each member of the cast gave a starring role performance. She is currently appearing in NBC's Chicago PD and USA's Sirens.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike continues at the Spencer Theatre, on the UMKC campus, through April 6. Purchase tickets at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre website or call 816-235-2700, or toll-free at 888-502-2700. Photo by Don Ipock courtesy of Kansas City Repertory Theatre.

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Steve Wilson Steve Wilson is a professional writer, artist, and photographer living in the Kansas City metropolitan area. For the last two years, he has been writing theatrical reviews, covering more than a dozen theatrical companies in the area. Previously he has written comedy material for nationally known entertainers, taught comedy writing at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and has had two books published. He continues to write for an internet news service covering sports, travel, and art in the area.

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