Review: VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE at Placer Community Theater

See the drama unfold through March 23rd

By: Mar. 14, 2024
Review: VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE at Placer Community Theater
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Sibling rivalry, unrealized dreams, and learning to age gracefully are some themes currently on display in Placer Community Theater’s production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Christopher Durang’s nod to the works of Anton Chekhov premiered on Broadway in 2013 and won the Tony Award for Best Play. It incorporates Chekhov Easter eggs such as character names, locations, and situations, yet familiarity with Chekhov isn’t necessary to enjoy Durang’s play.

It opens with siblings Sonia (Lorraine Poston) and Vanya (Dennis Hungridge) in their sitting room, lamenting how they never had a chance to have their own lives. Time passed as they cared for their elderly parents and the familial home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The dialogue here is awkwardly inorganic and unnecessarily expositional, leaving me to wonder if the rest of the play follows suit. Luckily, the characters don’t dwell too long in that space and move on to current topics. Still complaining, of course, but at least more naturally. The play gets a boost when its most interesting character comes in. Their housekeeper Cassandra (Donna-Lisa Otto) is, like her Greek namesake, prone to prophetic outbursts that no one takes completely seriously. The one that prompted this unscheduled visit, “Beware Hootie Pie!”, is so absurd that it gets dismissed as just a byproduct of her eccentricity.  

Cassandra’s warnings begin to make more sense with the arrival of the third sibling, Masha (Alison Loeprich). Once a successful actress, Masha is now struggling with the pitfalls of aging and dwindling roles. Accompanying her is her much younger boyfriend, Spike (Matthew Fairall), whose superficiality seems a perfect match to Masha’s self-absorption. Spike, in varying states of undress, embodies the vigor of youth as he knowingly taunts Vanya with his disrobing and plays on Masha’s insecurity by bringing a young, attractive neighbor back to the house. Nina (Abril Tyler), though, has no interest in Spike. As an aspiring actress, she is intent on meeting her idol, Masha. As the siblings’ lives spiral out of control, they must learn to work together towards a common goal.  

All of the actors in this production are superb; however, the most flamboyant characters stand out. Alison Loeprich makes Masha the quintessential narcissistic diva. She’s a delightful mix of vanity and desperation – expertly twisting the audience’s emotions from disgust to pity. Her counterpart, Matthew Fairall’s Spike, is pure comic relief. His posturing and preening prompt a lot of laughs, particularly when Nina notes, “He’s very attractive…except for his personality.” My favorite character, Donna-Lisa Otto’s Cassandra, is wry and witty with a smidgen of mother hen. Perfect for housekeeping or prophecies, she is definitely one you want on your side.

Placer Community Theater and director Chris Harada do a solid job bringing Chekhov’s themes to life in Durang’s work. The scenes are snappy and move at a quick pace, the actors are on top of their lines, and Loeprich is great at improv – she didn’t miss a beat when her heel flew off the stage. This seasoned cast is one you would do well to see, and there is plenty to do before the show near the Gomez Arts Center in Auburn.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike plays at the Placer Community Theater in Auburn through March 23. Tickets and more information may be found online at PlacerCommunityTheater.org.

Photo credit: Philip Jacques




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