After an 18-month hiatus, theatre is back! For the Kentwood Players, that means picking up right where they left off with ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, ‘the 2013 Tony-winning comedy by Christopher Durang. Originally set to open on March 13, 2020, the director and cast kept at it via Zoom, losing and gaining a few cast member, and ending up with a delightful evening of frivolity.
As one might suspect from the title, the plays of Anton Chekov simmer near the surface of this family drama. Vanya (Chris Morrison) and his adopted sister Sonia (Valerie Sullivan) live together in the house they grew up in, seemingly stuck in place years after the death of the parents they took care of. Both bemoaning the fact that life is passing them by until their New Age housekeeper Cassandra (director Susan Stangl stepping in at the last minute) warns of impending doom. This doom is in the shape of third sibling, Masha (Sarilee Kahn), a successful actress, and her himbo boyfriend Spike (Giovanni Navarro). Masha’s visit has a dual purpose – to attend a costume party by a prominent neighbor and to inform her siblings she will be selling the family house.
What ensues is Durang’s reliable brand of absurdist comedy filtered through the themes that run through Chekov’s plays – the sibling rivalry between the meek Sonia and the flamboyant Masha, the collision between generations, especially in Masha’s increasing worry about losing Spike to a young actress admirer named Nina (Issabella Petrini) – the Checkov references are everywhere – and the general struggles that confront everyone as we age.
The cast is more than up to the challenge of the comedy, although the opening performance lacked the sharpness of fast-paced timing that serves the script best (maybe too much rehearsal on Zoom?) Kahn is perfectly cast as the vain and arrogant Masha, and never better than when in battle with the more subdued Sullivan as Sonia (their fights over what Sonia will wear/wore to the costume party are some of the highlights of the evening) and Morrison as Vanya is reminiscent of the role’s originator, David Hyde Pierce, conveying the angst of a more than middle-aged gay man who feels both the pain and the protection of staying invisible. Navarro plays the stereotypical actor/boy toy/stud with zeal – his “reverse strip” offers physical comedy at its best. Petrini and director Stangl both carry out their time on stage with obvious pleasure, and are stellar supporting cast able to our titular four.
If you’ve missed the pleasure of live theatre, ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ is a wonderful way to jump back in. At the Westchester Playhouse through October 10th.
You will be required to show proof of vaccination before entering; make sure you have your card on you or the digital access on your phone. Masks are required during the performance, and intermission is offered outside on the patio, so bring a jacket.
While parking can be a bit challenging, it’s a huge bonus that the Metro now has a station less than a block away from playhouse. It’s great to drive over for an evening of live theater, but if you really want to be Chekovian, the train is the way to go.
“Vanya…” is scheduled to run through Oct. 10, so don’t wait.
For tickets, go to http://www.kentwoodplayers.org/