Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE Centers on a Family Reunion You Don't Want to Miss!

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE by Christopher Durang won the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for the Broadway production of this show. Having never seen the comedy before, I was thrilled to find out a production was taking place at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica and rushed to arrange my tickets. And now I can understand why the show got so many rave reviews in the past and am happy to add mine to them.

This hilarious comedy opens as we meet Vanya (Brian Drillinger) and his adopted sister, Sonia (Michelle Danner, Founding Director of the Edgemar Center for the Arts), who live a quiet life together in the Pennsylvania farmhouse where they grew up, while their more flamboyant sister Masha (Christine Dunford) travels the world as a movie star. Just as their cleaning woman Cassandra (Tamika Katon-Donegal who adds a wonderful bit of spice to her every scene), an appropriate name for a Jamaican psychic who no believes, issues a warning about terrible events in their future, Masha returns for an unannounced visit with her 20-something boy toy Spike (Nate Golon who turns taking his shirt and/or jeans off into several show-stopping moments), revealing plans to sell the family home.

And so begins this unforgettable family reunion filled with rivalry, regret, and lots of racket, especially when Nina (Remy Nozik), a new neighbor, appears and threatens to upset the family's balance. All allusions to Chekhov and his plays such as The Cherry Orchard are purely intentional, with each reference generating knowing chuckles from the audience.

Self-centered Masha has been invited to a major high-powered Hollywood party taking place in the neighborhood close to her family home. Masha takes it upon herself to dress as Snow White (straight out of the Disney movie) and asks the others to dress as some of the Seven Dwarfs so she can be the center of attention. And while Vanya and Nina go along with her request, the lonely Sonia takes it upon herself to dress in a sequined gown, more like Gloria Swanson in her heyday rather than Snow White's evil Stepmother.

Danner realistically recounts the story from the viewpoint of a 52-year old and unmarried spinster who has experienced personal attention from a man for her looks for the very first time. But when her outfit steals all the attention from Masha, since many at the party are too young to know who Snow White was, Masha's jealous outrage causes her to reveal she needs to sell the family home in order to stay afloat financially. And of course, Spike, dressed as Prince Charming, sweeps Masha off her feet to try and calm her down in the only way he knows how! What a lucky girl she is, especially given their age difference and her insecurities about her looks.

Veteran actor and director Barbara Tarbuck has assembled a cast who has known and worked together for years, thus adding more realism to the story of family members who know and understand each other so well. Their ease with each other onstage was infectious, lending realism to family arguments that reveal just how much love really exists between the siblings. I guarantee many of their arguments will feel incredibly familiar to you, as no doubt the same conversations have taken place in your own life between you, your siblings, and most likely your significant others. At several times, I wondered if someone had taped conversations in my own home!

Production Designer Alessandra Manias and Producer Alexandra Guarrieri are to be commended for assembling a top-notch team, including evocative lighting design by Kyle McAnally, sound design by DJ Medina which included many totally appropriate songs including "Here Comes the Sun," A World Without Love," and "Witchy Woman," and comically appropriate costume design by Larae Mychel. Their combined efforts make this show a family reunion you definitely don't want to miss!

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE by Christopher Durang continues through December 11th 2016 on Fridays 8PM, Saturdays 8PM and Sundays 5PM (dark Nov. 24-27 for Thanksgiving weekend) at the Edgemar Center for the Arts' Alexander Theater, 2437 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets are $35 general admission and may be purchased at the door, or reserved in advance by calling 310-392-7327 or online at www.edgemar.org.


Photos by Teferi Seifu




From This Author - Shari Barrett

Shari Barrett, a Los Angeles native, has been active in the theater world since the age of six - acting, singing, and dancing her way across the boards all over town. After teaching in secondary sc... (read more about this author)


Interview: Writer/Director Catherine Butterfield on the World Premiere of TO THE BONE Presented by Open Fist Theatre CompanyInterview: Writer/Director Catherine Butterfield on the World Premiere of TO THE BONE Presented by Open Fist Theatre Company
September 26, 2022

Open Fist Theatre Company is presenting the world premiere of To the Bone, a darkly funny comedy about family, baseball, and genetics, written and directed by Catherine Butterfield. The play centers on sisters Kelly Moran and Maureen Dugan from the 'Irish Riviera' south of Boston, where they were known as 'hard girls' back in high school. And since the adage says that it's better to write about the things you know, I decided to ask Catherine Butterfield about how much of her own personal life is reflected in the play and what it's like to write and direct it herself.

Interview: Carla Ching on the World Premiere of her Play REVENGE PORN OR THE STORY OF A BODYInterview: Carla Ching on the World Premiere of her Play REVENGE PORN OR THE STORY OF A BODY
September 23, 2022

Carla Ching is among the first three recipients to win the Los Angeles New Play Project Award, which supports playwriting and producing in smaller Los Angeles theaters. Her new play, Revenge Porn or the Story of a Body, opening September 23 at The Pico, directed by Bernardo Cubría for Ammunition Theatre Company, was originally developed as part of the 2021 Ammo Writers' Lab. It takes a very public look into the private lives of people who hurt the ones they love most, and how or if revenge should be taken to offset the pain. I decided to speak with Carla Ching about the play and how it was developed for its world premiere.

Interview: Bart DeLorenzo on Directing Richard Eyre's Adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's GHOSTSInterview: Bart DeLorenzo on Directing Richard Eyre's Adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's GHOSTS
September 7, 2022

Odyssey Theatre Ensemble is presenting the Los Angeles premiere of what may be Henrik Ibsen's most controversial play, Ghosts, adapted by acclaimed British director Richard Eyre and directed by Bart DeLorenzo, a Los Angeles-based theater director and producer who is the founding artistic director of the Evidence Room theater, a 17-year-old company renowned in Los Angeles for contemporary theater productions. I decided to speak with Bart about what led him to direct this new adaptation at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.

Interview: Katelyn Schiller and Nick Rheinwald-Jones on Their Immersive Interactive DRAGON SHOW: THE EXTENDED TAILInterview: Katelyn Schiller and Nick Rheinwald-Jones on Their Immersive Interactive DRAGON SHOW: THE EXTENDED TAIL
September 7, 2022

Dragons... fairies... knights... enchanted meadows... spooky caves... all part of an immersive experience into your favorite childhood fantasies in Spy Brunch's site-specific adventure, Dragon Show: The Extended Tail. Filled with original songs and a memorable cast of characters, just 12 audience members will be admitted into each performance to enjoy the kind of intimate and memorable experience that immersive theatre delivers best. As a true fan of the genre, how could I resist a production such as this? So, I decided to speak with Katelyn Schiller and Nick Rheinwald-Jones, writers/producers/directors from Spy Brunch to find about more about them and the creation of their immersive fantasy world.

Interview: Michael A. Shepperd on Taking on a Dual-Race Double Role in VALLEY SONGInterview: Michael A. Shepperd on Taking on a Dual-Race Double Role in VALLEY SONG
August 25, 2022

VALLEY SONG by South African master playwright Athol Fugard is two-actor, three-character play in which Michael A. Shepperd takes on the roles of Abraam Jonkers, a mixed- race old man who has been a pumpkin farmer his entire life, and The Author, a White man who wants to buy the land where Abraam lives and works, potentially leaving him homeless. And since these roles were originally doubled by Fugard himself, I decided to speak with Michael A. Shepperd about preparing for such a challenging artistic endeavor.