“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” by Christopher Durang is an absurd homage to just about every Chekov play ever written. Vanya and Masha are siblings and Sonia is their adopted sister. While Masha was off becoming a famous movie star, Vanya and Sonia stayed home to take care of their parents. Now that their parents have died, the two remain in the house, which Masha pays for, and dwell on the fact that they haven’t done anything with their lives. So when Masha returns home for a visit to deliver some big news all hell breaks loose. Throw in Cassandra the prophetic house keeper, Spike the VERY young boyfriend of Masha and Nina the naïve neighbor girl and the opportunities are ripe for comedy. Especially if you are familiar with the works of Chekov.
The references to Chekov’s works are abundant throughout. Sonia admires the “cherry orchard” out behind the house and instead of the famous line, “I’m a seagull, I’m a seagull, I’m a seagull,” Sonia utters, “I’m a wild turkey, I’m a wild turkey, I’m a wild turkey.” There’s even a fantastic bit in the second act where Masha and Sonia essentially play out an abridged version of every Chekov heroine. Durang’s script is wonderfully clever. However, I remembered about half way through the first act, that I don’t like Chekov, and apparently I don’t like it any better as a comedy. The characters are self-centered and insecure and the story is tedious.
That’s not to say that there weren’t moments. Mark Blum as Vanya has a monologue, more appropriately called a rant that is absolutely magnificent. Shalita Grant as Cassandra is brilliantly over-the-top and funny as the quirky prophet and Kristine Nielsen, as Sonia, is spot on with her Maggie Smith impersonation. David Korins’ set design is absolutely gorgeous and director David Hyde Pierce utilizes the space beautifully. I want to like this play. After all, it has all the right elements and very talented people involved. Despite this I can’t raise my excitement level much above a ‘meh.’ I don’t like Chekov, even in the very capable hands of Durang.
*Coverage provided for the Culver City News