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Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
May 8, 2015 - May 17, 2015$12.50 - $30.00
By Christopher Durang
Sponsored by Mike Simonson
DATES: May 8th – 17th, 2015
TIMES: Wed – Sat at 7:30 p.m., Sun at 2 p.m.
TICKETS: Midwestix or 515-309-0251
SUNDAY TALK-BACK: May 10, ,2015 4pm or Immediately following the production
Middle-aged siblings Vanya and Sonia share a home in Bucks County, PA, where they bicker and complain about the circumstances of their lives. Suddenly, their movie-star sister, Masha, swoops in with her new boy toy, Spike. Old resentments flare up, eventually leading to threats to sell the house. Also on the scene are sassy maid Cassandra, who can predict the future, and a lovely young aspiring actress named Nina, whose prettiness somewhat worries the imperious Masha.
- Vanya – Jim Benda
- Sonia – Ann Woldt
- Masha – Arlene McAtee
- Spike – Zander Morales
- Cassandra – Andrea Markowski
- Nina – Emily Wohlers
- Director – Jennifer Nostrala
- Stage Manager – Libby Holland
- Production Stage Manager – Shelby Burgus
- Set Design – April Zingler
- Lighting Design – Jim Trenberth
- Costumes Design – Doris Nash
- Property Design – Kelsi Tedesco
- Sound Design – Chris Williams
- Hair and Makeup Design – Cindy Hummel
- Master Carpenter – Paul Mostrom
- Dramaturge – Nancy Evans
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is LOL funny
Theatre Review/Des Moines Register
By Michael Morain, firstname.lastname@example.org
May 11, 2015
In StageWest’s bizarre show this week at the Des Moines Social Club, a pair of mopey, middle-aged siblings spend a lot of time watching wild turkeys from their sitting-room window. One morning their clairvoyant housekeeper shows up to shout prophecies over the roar of her vacuum and warns them about someone, or something, named Hootie Pie.
It’s hard to explain.
Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” is goofy and scattered and clever and sweet. It’s a gentle little farce, a tale of regret and reinvention, directed with a light teasing touch by Jennifer Ross Nostrala.
But mostly it’s funny — even LOL funny, to use a term that would drive one of those siblings up the wall.
“I know older people always think the past was better, but really — instead of a text with all these lowercase letters and no punctuation, what about a nicely crafted letter, sent through the post office?” Vanya, 57, gripes in the show’s now-famous lament. “We used to lick postage stamps back then!”
Vanya, Sonia and Masha were named after Chekhov characters by their theater-loving parents, and they still seem to be living up or down to their namesake personalities, even well into adulthood.
The first two — Vanya (Jim Benda) and Sonia (Ann Woldt) — let their own lives pass by in order to care for their aging parents, who are now dead, while Masha (Arlene McAtee) flew off to become a Hollywood star. When she comes home with a hunk of man-candy named Spike (a smirking Zander Morales), the old sibling resentments resurface.
Add to the mix the vacuuming, voodoo-dabbling housekeeper (played by Andrea Markowski and the voices in her head) plus a starstruck neighbor (Emily Wohlers), and the story takes a few weird turns that Chekhov’s gloomy Russian aristocrats never would have imagined.
Viewers don’t need to know much about 19th-century Russia or mid-20th-century America to enjoy the show, although my boomer parents laughed at references I didn’t catch myself. (Google tells me Senor Wences was a Spanish ventriloquist on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Google also says he was popular, but I find this harder to believe.)
The script includes enough explainers for a broad audience, which is partly why it’s being performed so much this season across the country and why it won the Tony Award for best play in 2013. But there are too many pop-culture references to make it a show for the ages, which is why you should see it here and now, especially with this particular mix of local talent.
Benda and Woldt are both pathetically funny as pajama-clad creatures of routine, although Woldt draws the most laughs when she heads to a costume party dressed as an evil queen played by Maggie Smith. (I told you: It’s hard to explain.) Later, her over-the-phone monologue with a potential suitor adds a surprising note of hope amid all the silly banter.
McAtee is great, too, as the delusional movie star who sees herself as “the American Judi Dench” even though she built her career on a series about a murderous nymphomaniac. She usually speaks with her arms extended, as if addressing a throng of fans rather than her sad-sack siblings or six-pack Spike — who pulls focus, as they say, by parading around in his underwear. (Morales hasn’t eaten sugar or carbs since he landed the role three months ago.)
Other quick shout-outs go to costumer Doris Nash (for the costume-party outfits), scenic designer April Zingler (for the detailed house) and props designer Kelsi Tedesco (for the voodoo doll), whose collective contributions make the show at least look realistic even though the characters spout such nonsense. It’s serious business to stage the absurd.
Vanya + Sonia + Masha + Spike = marvelously delivered Durang theatrics
A theatre review by John Busbee/Culture Buzz
May 7, 2015
StageWest Theatre Company continues a successful journey through its inaugural season in its new performing venue, the Kum & Go Theater, with Christopher Durang’s wacky, cerebral comedy, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” Delivering a show which resonates in StageWest’s performance sweet spot, this production will delight its audiences through this coming Sunday, May 17.
Durang’s comedy spins around two caretaker siblings’ relationship with their financially successful film star sister. Vanya and Sonia live together on the family estate, complete with a cherry orchard, seemingly content to rely on their sister’s largess. Masha supports them by covering expenses for the property and providing them with modest allowances. The Chekhovian overtones, beginning with their names, are undeniable, a theme burdening the three siblings like prisoners’ shackles. Durang quickly develops his story to outrageous and hilarious extremes, providing this talented ensemble the opportunity to shine at various times. With the pending possibility of Masha selling the estate, leaving her siblings out in the cold, and the unintended youthful intrusion of a visiting neighbor, Nina, who seems to be distracting Masha’s boy toy, Spike, this story holds the audience through its engaging, if incredible, progression. Add the Disney-esque overtones of a costume party where Masha insists on being Snow White, pushing others into Seven Dwarves roles, and Durang is at his outlandish best.
Director Jennifer Ross Nostrala brings an eclectic mix together in casting this engaging work. Anchored by stage veterans, Jim Benda and Ann Woldt, who play Vanya and Sonia, respectively, this production surges forward with wonderful ebbs and flows. Woldt and Benda’s opening scene is delivered with masterful interplay and wonderful extremes, from pastoral bliss to tempestuous peaks, as their relationship and each character’s personality warts are exposed. A small alteration in the morning coffee routine quickly becomes a cataclysmic confrontation, leaving the audience close to tears of laughter. Each understands her or his role, and totally embraces all the nuances and rich context Durang has infused into his script.
As Cassandra, the housekeeper who embraces her namesake and delivers dire prophecies, Andréa Markowski is encased in a gypsy-like wardrobe and delivers lines ranging from melodramatic flair to tossing off a reply or comment. While still bringing fun into the action, Markowski doesn’t fully develop her Cassandra, as a tinge of self-consciousness seems to restrain her from reaching the delicious full potential of this role. Arlene McAtee, a newcomer with lots of experience in other venues, brings the pivotal Masha to vibrant, self-indulgent life. McAtee’s Masha captures much of the imperious expectance of her position in the family, although she seems to lose occasional focus in some key monologues. Call it opening weekend rough spots these are correctable issues. Spike is Masha’s much younger lover, and Zander Morales turns in some of the most memorable and laugh-out-loud moments with his performance. With all the self-aware preening and posing of a banty rooster, Morales gives total commitment to his exhibitionist role, much to the delight of the audience. Spike’s self-indulgence ruffles other characters, but he sloughs any criticisms off easily. The introduction of next-door visitor, Nina, brings a special intrigue to the action, and obvious jealousy issues for Masha. Emily Wohlers wraps her Nina in an innocent and somewhat naïve cloak, dovetailing into this eclectic ensemble effectively. All comes together for an enjoyable immersion into a rewarding evening of comedy.
Two especially rewarding scenes came from Woldt and Benda. During a touching telephone conversation, always challenging when the person on the other end isn’t heard, Woldt adds dimension and color to her Sonia. Benda brings all his talents to bear during his final monologue, a compelling and moving rant and revelation combination where he leverages his character’s full power in surprising fashion. These two moments alone are worth the price of admission.
April Zingler produces an effective scenic design, giving plenty of working space for the director and her cast, while providing eye-catching aesthetics for the audience. This is a mirth-filled romp, which delivers quirky character interplay, and will satisfy anyone’s appetite for an entertaining evening of comedy.