Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike is a literate good time with some brilliantly funny actors.
CROSS POLLINATING THEATRE
The Vancouver East Cultural Centre presents some of the most involving theatre in the city and Obaaberima from Toronto’s Buddies In Bad Times Theatre is brilliant. I want to give you two tickets to see it for free! If you live in the Greater Vancouver area and want to win, see below this review for Vanya and Sasha and Masha and Spike at The Stanley Theatre.
(Note: Art is subjective. One-person’s sublime evening out is another person’s torture. I want to celebrate what went into creating the show and how I felt the audience reacted. Then I will allow my cynical Uncle Max to have a short retort. I will also post the cost of tickets.
The thought is you can then decide is the show is to your taste and worth the money they are asking. Does Uncle Max talk you out of it? Or did the rest of the review convince you to go? Let me know.)
Christopher Durang is a neurotic New York gay writer who has been crafting some extremely high strung, often surreal and always hilarious comedies since the 1980’s. His newest play is the awkwardly titled Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike and it won the 2013 Tony Award for best new play.
He’s still got it!
Using the tragically humourous characters for Anton Chekov’s classic plays he tells the story of three siblings who have a lakeside home. Vanya and Sonya stayed home and cared for their aging parents while the more talented and superficial Masha went to Hollywood to be a star. She paid the bills and they did the work.
Sonya was adopted and feels ignored but belittled, she wallows joyfully in her misery. “I had a family that loved me or at least pretended to.” . Vanya is more docile, a gay man who just wants to quietly read and write.
They are both running down the clock, their best years behind them unused. Their house keeper is a psychic named Cassandra who “comes ever week and tells us terrible things, it’s abusive.” They bicker and tease and watch out over the lake to see if the blue heron will visit. “We have become numb”.
Their world is turned upside down when Masha arrives back home with her much younger boyfriend Spike and announces she is selling the home. But first they must all attend a masquerade party.
This leads to a series of situations that go from ridiculous funny to bizarrely outrageous. Spike hates wearing pants and seems to delight in posing in front of awe-struck Vanya or a visiting neighbor named Nina who, in a take on All About Eve is a devotee to Masha while aspiring to be an actress herself. Cassandra has psychic vision that causes her to howl and wail. Masha tries to change her aura in a nonsensical mime. Etc.
Rachel Ditor directs with the right blend of preposterous antics and touching moments. Her entire cast has moments to shine. Katy Hoffman has an eccentric innocence as the puppy-like Nina. Anna Galvin is drolly blasé moment and riddled with anxiety of the self obsessed Masha. Robert Salvador gets deserved applause in almost every scene he is in as the over sexualized Spike. Carmen Aguirre is brilliantly wild as the unheeded physic Cassandra.
But it’s Susinn McFarlen and Jay Brazeau that make the show sing! They are both so grounded in hope and casual sarcasm that helps mask their bitter sadness at life. Caustically funny throughout they both get a moment in Act Two that makes you pull a tight smile and give a little teary gulp as it brushes your heart. Young actors can learn a lot by watching their work.
The opening night audience was packed with well-wishers and fans but their applause and standing ovation felt truly appreciative. This cast earned it, they were frightfully funny.
UNCLE MAX RETORTS
So you better bone up on your Chekov as another well read writer flaunts their literacy by using references and in-jokes that fly over the heads of normal people. I have never seen a show work for so long in so many ways to try and make people laugh. It got positively shrill at times. I wanted to pat it and say ‘shhhh, there, there, settle down, it’s okay, I like you.’
WHO IS THIS SHOW FOR?
Well, it’s not for everyone, two couples near us left at intermission. But you will likely love it if you love outrageous situational comedy that is both literate and sentimental. These actors and the whole design team are simply brilliant fun contributing to many many laugh out loud moments.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST
Tickets are cheaper during the week, around $49 and $54 on the weekend. As always there are select seats that are $29. Also as always the Arts Club uses progressive ticket prices so the more the tickets sell the higher the price goes. So buy early to get the best price.
I still chuckle fondly at some of the moments from this show. It feels good to laugh at muddleheaded people and the script’s cleverness and tenderhearted moments make it surprising and appealing. This is a brilliantly funny cast and the handsome man spends a lot of time in his underwear. What’s not to love?
There are a lot of playful angst and surreal silliness that it felt like a day of amusement park rides.
WIN FREE THEATRE TICKETS BY CROSS POLLINATING THEATRE
The Vancouver East Cultural Centre presents some of the most involving theatre in the city and Obaaberima from Toronto’s Buddies In Bad Times Theatre is brilliant. I want to give you two tickets to see it for free! If you live in the Greater Vancouver area and want to win simply re-tweet this review on Twitter or share it on Facebook and include the following sentence
‘I want to see #Obaaberima @TheCultch’
by April 1, 2015. A draw will be held from the eligible entries and the winner will be notified by The Cultch directly on April 2nd, 2015.”
David C. Jones