Category Archive for: ‘Kedar K. Adour’

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Berkeley Rep is Christopher Durang at his best.

The cast of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, this year’s Tony Award winner for Best Play, pose for a “family portrait.” (l to r) Anthony Fusco (Vanya), Caroline Kaplan (Nina), Lorri Holt (Masha), Mark Junek (Spike), Sharon Lockwood (Sonia), and Heather Alicia Simms (Cassandra). All Photos courtesy of kevinberne.com

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE: Comedy by Christopher Durang. Directedby  Richard E.T. White. Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Rhoda Theatre, 2015 Addison Street @ Shattuck, Berkeley, CA 94704. (510) 647-2949 orwww.berkeleyrep.org.

September 20 – October 20, 2013

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Berkeley Rep is Christopher Durang at his best.

Berkeley Rep has won the prize (if there is one to be offered) for being the first to bring the 2013 Tony Award winning Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike to the Bay Area. Be assured it will be back because Custom Made Theatre Company helmed by Brian Katz has a love affair with Christopher Durang’s plays but there may competition with SF Playhouse who will surely make a bid for the next production.

Durang’s plays seem to fit the mood of San Francisco playgoers. His plays skewer sacred institutions such as with Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You (Catholic Church), Beyond Therapy (psychoanalysis) and The Marriage of Bette and Boo (marriage and family). This time around he sort of pays homage to Chekov with this side splitting play that is being given a superb production by an outstanding cast and seasoned director.

Not only has he taken the names of his characters from the depressing Uncle Vanya he imports an ingénue named Nina from The Seagull. It will help if you are familiar with Chekov’s work and also with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Greek Mythology and Maggie Smith’s Oscar award winning role in California Suiteand a few other theatre and movie references. Familiarity is not necessary because this play will have you in hysterics.

(l to r) Sharon Lockwood (Sonia), Heather Alicia Simms (Cassandra), and Anthony Fusco (Vanya)

It all begins with Vanya (Anthony Fusco) enjoying a cup of coffee in the sun room of a Buck’s County mansion (fantastic set by Kent Dorsey) that he shares with his bi-polar sister (adopted) Masha (Sharon Lockwood). They have been burdened with taking care of their senescent parents who had required extended care as they aged into dementia. Those parents, who were local thespian admirers of Chekov, gave them Chekhovian names.  The third child Sonia is a famous movie actress playing in exploitative films. While Vanya and Masha have spent their later years tied to the homestead where the excitement of any day was watching a Blue Heron eat frogs in the pond outside the sun room, Sonia (Lorri Holt) has travelled the world and has been married 5 times. Housekeeper Cassandra (Heather Alicia Simms) true to her namesake can portend the future . . . well most of the time, and practices voodoo.

Sonia arrives with her 20 something year old boy-toy Spike (Mark Junek) who prefers to be undressed to dressed,to attend a neighbor’s movie-themed  masquerade party and to sell the house. Sonia will attend the party as Snow White insisting that her retinue be the dwarfs with the exception of Spike as Prince Charming.  Nina, who is visiting relatives who live across the pond enters with Spike and is reluctantly given an invitation to the party.

Anthony Fusco (Vanya), Lorri Holt (Masha), and Mark Junek (Spike)

Durang with his disparate and sometimes desperate characters has set the stage for a total romp that should not be missed. Local luminaries Anthony Fusco, Lorri Holt and Sharon Lockwood are absolutely superb with each getting their time to shine upon the stage.Lockwood’s transformation from unhappy depressed 52 year old into a glamorous “Maggie Smith” wannabe in a sequined dress will have you applauding. Lorri Holt’s take charge woman who expects homage is pitch-perfect. Anthony Fusco gets his turn in the second act with his diatribe against everything technologic bemoaning the loss of “charming humanity”  and social intercourse of the 50s is a solo performance worth a Tony. The audience broke out with thunderous applause.

Heather Alicia Simms who understudied the role of Cassandra in the Broadway show that included David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen and Sigourney Weaver brings a new meaning to hysterical with her shenanigans. And then there is Mike Junek with six-pack abs, a mobile body to die for (mentally coveted by gay Vanya) unbelievably bouncing around. Last but not least is the beautiful, charming and disarming Caroline Kaplan playing the star struck youngsters with verisimilitude.

There is not a single dull moment in this 2 hour and 45 minute evening (includes an intermission) and Berkeley Rep should bring director Richard E. T. White around more often.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com.

 

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