“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”
Who: Syracuse Stage
Where: 820 E. Genesee St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13210
When: Through Oct. 12
Review by Dianna Bell
Loud, over-the-top, hilarious and touching, Christopher Durang’s Tony Award winning play hit all of the right notes at last night’s premiere.
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” tells a story of three middle-aged siblings with relationships fraught with old resentments. Two of the siblings, Sonia and Vanya, have remained at their childhood home after taking care of their elderly parents up until their death. Masha has led the life of a glamorous movie star and finally returns home, with a much younger boyfriend in tow – Spike.
As the play unfolds, the siblings grapple with what the failings of their lives. Masha fears her life is over and mourns her many ex-husbands, while Sonia and Vanya mourn for lives they never got to live.
The cast of “Vanya” is loaded with talent.
Larry Paulsen’s portrayal of Vanya piqued during a monologue where he ruminates over by-gone times and Ben Chase as Spike was hilarious as an over-sexualized actor-wannabe.
Nance Williamson was great as the dramatic and self-centered Masha and Lisa Renee Pitts was excellent as the superstitious, soothsaying house cleaner Cassandra.
Dori Legg as Sonia truly shined.
After Sonia receives a phone call for a date, and after she has spent most of the play bemoaning how inconsequential and unexciting her life is, Legg showed how truly conflicted Sonia is. The audience sat in awe as she battled with her anxiety over finally accepting the offer she has wanted for so long. Does she accept the invitation and alter her trajectory? Or, does she stick with what she knows – a humble existence living with her brother?
She was able to emote so much through body language. After she almost turns down the date, Legg is wracked with uncertainty; running her hands over her face and through her hair, her face falls. The audience felt her frustration with herself.
Some even shouted out in defiance, urging her to take the date. “Come on, Sonia!”
The earnest Midori Iwama as Nina felt a little false. Everyone else had an ease and confidence in their portrayals. Iwama was just a little too eager compared to the others on stage.
The set and lighting make up for any shortcomings that could be found. The stage looked like a cozy cabin in the scenic countryside, complete with a white-picket fence and lawn. There was an amazing amount of detail. The stone fireplace looked like you could really light a fire and gather round on a cold night.
Director Marcela Lorca hit the nail on the head.
As the siblings start to soften and let the old resentments fall away, the Beatles “Here Comes the Sun” starts to play, and the audience left knowing that Vanya and Sonia and Masha will be ok.