TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”
Absurdist extraordinaire Christopher Durang (Beyond Therapy) tosses Chekhov (the playwright not the Star Trek character) into a blender, transplants it to Bucks County and feeds it to ace scenery chewers Sigourney Weaver, David Hyde Pierce and Kristine Nielsen.
“…a loving rejection of pretty much everything Chekhov stands for in the popular imagination.” New York Times
“…Weaver’s game but strained performance throws Nicholas Martin’s production off-balance.” New York Post
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is brainy and witty and clever and cute.” Variety
“While its surfaces might seem slight or even frivolous, this is a work by a mature playwright taking stock and illuminating countless universal truths for those of us who have hit contemplative middle age.” Hollywood Reporter
Mizer’s Two Cents: It’s hard not to love a show that has Kristine Nielsen doing a breath-catchingly riotous Maggie Smith imitation for a scene and Billy Magnussen in skimpy boxer briefs for half of its run time. And that doesn’t even begin to mention a treasure trove of theatrical zingers, movie star Sigourney Weaver playing…well…a movie star, droll line readings from David Hyde Pierce, Magnussen’s delightful take on a stock character, Disney costumes, a Greek prophetess and a sensitively written/performed monologue for Ms. Nielsen that left me teary eyed.
But if you think these parts have a hard time fitting together in a sentence, imagine creating a cohesive play from them. The ever-impressive Durang gets close though there are times when it feels like the actors are in different plays from each other, their absurdity pitched on the dial from Pierce’s naturalistic one on up to Weaver’s arch eleven. In the end you enjoy the evening more for the parts (and not just the ones in said tight boxer briefs) than the emotionally satisfying sum Durang seems to be aiming for.
See it for Durang’s always enjoyable world of looniness, a cast of strong comedic actors and a healthy dollop of very well-earned laughs.