Monday, 30 October 2017 14:46

Relatives & Rivals: Comedy is born from tension in 'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike'

Written by  Marla Miller
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Sibling rivalry and timeless family dynamics set the stage for laughs and bickering in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, the Tony Award-winning comedy on its way to Beardsley Theater.

Presented by Muskegon Civic Theatre, the play opens Nov. 17, runs for three weekends, and centers on middle-aged siblings Vanya and Sonia and Masha. Gay Vanya and adopted Sonia still live in the family home in Bucks County, Pa., while movie-star Masha pays all the bills.

Vanya and Sonia have never grown up, or had a job, after spending their adulthood taking care of their now-deceased parents and the family property. They are comfortable, yet bicker and complain about lost chances, while Masha escaped to find fame as an actress.

“I love the show because it’s about siblings,” said Director Jason Bertoia. “Siblings will always be your siblings. These three have acted this way with each other their entire lives.”

The play, written by Christopher Durang, won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play and takes its main character names and other themes from Russian playwright Anton Chekov.

“It’s really well-written, very intelligent,” Bertoia said. “His characters are relatable.”

The play broaches issues most middle-age people experience, like aging parents, who will take care of them, and what to do with the family home, along with self-pity, regrets and narrowing opportunities.

“At the heart of it, it’s a comedy,” Bertoia said. “Let’s be honest, life is a comedy. It has to be, otherwise it’s too serious. You watch the show, you listen to these people, and if they’re not you and your siblings, you know people like this.”

Bossy and haughty Masha returns home to attend a costume party with her much younger boy toy, Spike, and old resentments and rivalries flare, along with questions about Spike’s faithfulness. Masha’s career has started to stall, and she threatens to sell the home and cut off financial support for her siblings.

The story weaves in rivalry between old and young with handsome but dim-witted Spike, the family’s clairvoyant maid, Cassandra, and a neighbor’s pretty niece, Nina, an aspiring actress whose beauty makes Masha insecure.

There’s layers of laughter, drama and competition as Sonia and Masha bicker over the party. Masha wants to dress as Snow White and insists Sonia go as one of the seven dwarfs, but she rebels and dresses as the Evil Queen, while Vanya tries to keep the peace.

“It’s such a great play with mature women roles in it,” said Robin Erdman, cast as Sonia. “It’s my favorite kind of theater. It’s funny, but it’s real and passionate. It’s just a great role for an actor.”

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Muskegon Civic Theatre
Beardsley Theater
425 W. Western Ave., Muskegon
Nov. 17-Dec. 3, (231) 722-3852

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