There's something to be said for the love of the theatre: for the love of community: the dedication to the craft, the art and the substance of the thrill of opening night: another opening ... another show. The Kentwood Players were all set to open Christopher Durang's "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" in March, 2020! The set was up. The rehearsals all rehearsed. The fancy Footlights programs (John Finlayson's fine addition) printed: glossy! and then, the dampanic and the history that we have all existed through, with the psychological trips that continue and the losses many of us have suffered, the Kentwood Players have endured. Kentwood and the Westchester Playhouse have soldiered on with a certain joy that we maybe see only in community theatre. Joy.
|Valerie Sullivan, Chris Morrison,Sarilee Kach, Giovani Navarro|
Christopher Durang has been knocking out plays for years with a special love for odd ball characters (Sister Mary Ignatius and The Actor's Nightmare) who are so theatrical that abandoning disbelief is a pleasure. In "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," theatre folks will recognize familiar Chekhovian names and themes. We learn that the parents of Vanya (Chris Morrison) and Sonia (Valerie Sullivan), reference Uncle Vanya, middle aged siblings (Sonia was adopted) who survive in the lovliness of their Bucks County, PA family home buoyed by the angst that often serves as the undercurrent of the well known Russian playwright. They are depressed. Will the Blue Heron visit the lovely pond? Sister Masha is coming.
The tone of Durang's text serves up levels of irony and word play for broad comedy and some subtle stuff as well. For those who are familiar with "Three Sisters" or "The Cherry Orchard," the Chekhov comes through.
Enter! Rich and successful movie star sister Masha (Sarilee Kahn) arriving with her boy toy, Spike (Giovani Navarro) in tow. Stir in Cassandra (we slip off into Homer here) played by director Susan Stangl, whose loopy predictions all seem to come true. Chekhovian angst, over the top hilarity and then.. the lovely and sweet Nina (Isabella Petrini) reference The Seagull, whose naiveté sparkles: a delightful seasoning to Durang's broad story.
Sonia, decries her sad state of being a fifty something frump living with her frumpy 'brother' Vanya. Sonia suggests that they might make a go of it as a couple, save for the fact that Vanya is gay. How much Durang and his personal angst from being gay is invested is anyone's guess. Vanya does confess that he has been inspired by the character, Trigorin, in The Seagull to write his own play. It turns on the days when the Earth no longer exists. Pretty star struck Nina (ingenue from The Seagull) enthusiastically encourages Vanya to read the play to the assembled gang. Spike has the temerity to respond to a text while pretending to listen.
Durang's personal feelings may be invested in Vanya's explosive diatribe about "modern conveniences". It is at once sad and funny.
There's a costume party that reaps some hope for Sonia and a turn of events regarding the sale of the family home, a change of heart on Masha's part and we all live Happily Ever After.
Director Susan Stangl has kept physical movement to a minimum with the humor mostly coming in exposition. Stangl's Cassandra enjoys moments of romping, but the humor and biting wit of Durang's words and well defined characters win the day.
This is theatre for the community: a gift that is given from the hearts of the volunteers and their love of the craft and the art and the joy of putting on a play.
Masks and C19 vax cards are a big deal. There is a mask monitor! The spacious house holds about 120 with spacing for the comfort and safety of all.
VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE
By Christopher Durang
Directed by Susan Stangl
8301 Hindry Ave., L.A. 90045
September 17 through October 10, 2021
on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00pm
seat tickets are $22 with a $2 discount for seniors and students. To purchase
tickets, please email the box office at email@example.com or call (310) 645-5156