The 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike comes to Sierra Repertory Theatre’s East Sonora Theatre May 20 through June 12. SRT favorite Becky Saunders (Church Basement Ladies, Honky Tonk Angels) directs the show, with SRT company actor Ty Smith as Vanya.
Although its characters sport (mostly) 17th century names, Vanya and Sonia takes a modern and hilarious bit at life, responsibility and family. Creator Christopher Durang wrote the comedy as a minor homage to the works of historic playwright Anton Chekhov, but does not require familiarity with the show’s inspiration.
Vanya and Sonia are middle-aged-and-fading brother and sister, stuck living at the family estate of their deceased parents — who named them after famous, but drama-inflicted characters. Among their reflections on the missed opportunities of life, the two are visited by successful movie-star sister Masha (yep, still Chekhov), who returns to discuss the future of the estate. She also can’t help but bring along her youthful boy toy Spike, who more than stirs up the dusty home with his preference for taking his clothes off.
“Brother and sister are living a life of longing and regrets and in comes their other sister, who’s a movie star, adored by millions and loved by few,” said Artistic Director Scott Viets, emphasizing the realistic characters that come across in the play, but who almost seem to discuss their flaws with the audience.
The play uses humor to explore character, circumstances and the disappointment that comes with aging.
“Durang’s making a commentary on today’s fast-paced, social media-driven world by holding a magnifying glass up to it,” Viets said. “It’s also his pining for a simpler time, like so many do. But it’s not a lecture. It’s funny, it’s witty, and yet it’s got warmth to it.”
Those qualities are likely what earned the play nine awards and 10 additional award nominations its opening year. It won the Tony Award for Best Play.
“We always try to find a play that’s fresh and contemporary to introduce to our audience, even if the title is unknown to many,” Viets said. “It’s part of our mission statement to bring something to everyone.”
Viets also wanted to assure everyone not to be intimidated or turned off by the historic literature references, as they are absolutely not necessary to follow the play. The author describes his homage as Chekhov “in a blender” and any familiarity with the work will just be icing on the cake.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike opens Friday, May 20 at the East Sonora Theatre and runs through Sunday, June 12. Performances are Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m.; some Thursdays at 2 p.m.; and some Thursdays at 7 p.m. The audience is invited to stay after the show for a special “talk back” performance with actors on Thursday, May 26. Tickets range from $32 to $37, with senior, student and child discounts available. All opening weekend evening tickets are just $25. The show is rated R for mature themes and language. Deborah H. Malcolm (It’s a Wonderful Life, Music Man) returns as set designer and Jose M. Rivera (Oklahoma!, Buddy Holly) returns as costume designer.