Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Music Theatre of Connecticut
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule

Also see Zander's recent review of I Hate Hamlet


Jim Schilling, Jodi Stevens, and Cynthia Hannah
Photo by Joe Landry
Music Theatre of Connecticut is currently presenting an outrageously enjoyable production of Christopher Durang's quirky play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Featuring a six-member company of actors who work together as a true ensemble, this show is brimming with laughs. The play's very title signals the playwright's intention to incorporate references to Chekhov into the story. But you don't have to know the works of Chekhov to have a good time with this show. Terrifically directed by Pamela Hill, the Music Theatre of Connecticut staging of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike proves to be quite a hoot.

With the setting being a farmhouse in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the small stage space at Music Theatre of Connecticut has been artfully designed by scenic designer Carl Tallent to allow audience members to almost feel like they are sitting in this family's living room. Indeed, it often seems as if the wacky characters in this show are going to land right in your lap. Fortunately, the intimacy of this production only adds to the deliriously weird world that Durang has conjured up.

One of the strongest assets of this production is the first-rate cast. All six characters in the play are, to various degrees, slightly unhinged, and the actors playing them certainly make the most of their material. At the center of the play are brother and sister Vanya and Sonia who reside in the farmhouse, and the performers playing these roles are just about perfect. Jim Schilling makes a gloriously funny Vanya, who oftentimes acts as referee for the other characters' wild histrionics. As Sonia, Cynthia Hannah is sheer heaven, with the ability to be both hilarious and sad at the same time. Not to give anything away, but her second act phone scene is a definite highlight.

As Vanya and Sonia's movie-star sister Masha, Jodi Stevens chews the scenery deliciously from the moment that she enters—some of her line readings are outright showstoppers. And, speaking of showstoppers, Masha's boy-toy Spike, the intensely sexy and funny Christopher DeRosa, is most often seen stripping off his clothes and cavorting around the stage in his underwear. DeRosa was an unusually sensual Magaldi in Music Theatre of Connecticut's recent production of Evita, and he is even more sizzling in this show.

Katie Sparer makes a sensationally wacky housekeeper named Cassandra, who is constantly making wild proclamations of doom or indulging in her own versions of voodoo. As perhaps the most "normal" character onstage, the sweet Carissa Massaro is pretty and charming as Nina, one of the neighbors, but even she sometimes seems as if she has some kind of ulterior motive up her sleeve. This ensemble of actors works like a well-oiled machine, with each performer also getting his or her own chance to shine.

In the dizzying world of Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, just about anything can—and does—happen, and director Pamela Hill keeps the show happily spinning from beginning to end. Credit also goes to the wonderfully apt costumes of designer Diana Vanderkroef and the lighting design of Joshua Scherr, which is pretty much ideal. Indeed, just about every aspect of Music Theatre of Connecticut's production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike feels right and, if you are looking for a slightly strange and often hilarious evening of theatre, this is definitely the show for you.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike continues performances at Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk, Connecticut, through March 13, 2016. For tickets, please visit www.mtcmainstage.org or call the box office at 203-454-3883.


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