Chekhov makes a comedy

The Erie Playhouse’s newest production will be loved by some audiences and appreciated by others.

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” received several awards during its time on and off Broadway, including the Tony Award for Best Play, among other Tony nominations.

The show borrows themes such as ennui and loss from the works of Anton Chekhov as well as humor and character names.

Having an understanding of Chekhov’s artistic writing and the time which he wrote it will help audiences to understand many of the absurdist jokes made by playwright Christopher Durang, much like some of his other work.

The play also throws in some other jokes that the general public would understand, but most of the show will be enjoyed with an appreciation of Chekhov.

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” tells the story of three siblings, Vanya, Sonia and Masha. Vanya and Sonia live in the house that their parents raised them in. While the two siblings took care of their parents in their old age, Masha was out becoming a professional actress and using her money to pay the mortgage on the house while Vanya and Sonia didn’t work.

Masha returns to the home in Bucks County, Pa., and brings her new boyfriend, Spike, a man who’s much younger than her and has some trouble keeping his pants on.

Many problems unfold as Masha tries to take control over the costume party the group goes to and announces that she’s selling the house.

The show has some funny moments, but it’s subtler; not the kind of jokes that just make you laugh out loud. Those who appreciate the latter kind of jokes will enjoy the second act more, but they may find Vanya’s ranting monologue near the end a bit long-winded and boring.

The first act also has some gems, such as Spike’s “reverse strip tease” and Sonia’s impersonation of Maggie Smith.

The play will definitely be more appreciated by middle-aged audiences and those who are familiar with Chekhov – they will understand Sonia’s references to “the cherry orchard” and which play each character originated from.

Though the storyline may not appeal to some people, the acting will. Each cast member did well to stay in character through some decently long monologues and through bits where they were mainly interested in talking about themselves, not paying attention to anything else that’s going on in the scene.

One of the most memorable performances was Cassandra’s – played by Peggy Brace – the group’s cleaning woman who was constantly seeing visions and urging everyone to beware of this and that.

Cassandra had some of the best lines and said them in a manner that was over-the- top and hilarious.

Though the show may not be as gut-bustingly funny as “Shrek the Musical” or “Young Frankenstein,” that the Erie Playhouse has recently performed, it will still give its audiences a couple of laughs.

Don’t be fooled by the cute costumes, this show is not for children. There are several moments with adult language inappropriate for young ears.

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” continues through Nov. 23.

Performances start at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 19 only), Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees.

 

KHADIJA DJELLOULI

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