Chekhov meets Snow White in Award Winner

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” Shine at Bas Bleu Theatre

Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 16, 2017

Vanya and Sonia have reached middle age, with very little going for them. They live in the family home in Bucks County, PA, and have spent most of their adult lives looking after their now-deceased parents. Vanya and Sonia have been unhappy for so long it seems that they have forgotten what happiness is. A day’s highlight might be their bickering over whether the coffee is hot enough. Their boring lives are interrupted by the arrival of their world-famous actress sister, Masha, who breezes into town much to her peers’ annoyance.

The stage is set for two and one-half hours of clever intrigue, family squabbles, and a rich coming-to-realization of what is important in life.

© 2017 William A. Cotton

Jeffrey Bigger as Vanya, and Kelly Foerster as Sonia, are convincing as the brother and sister inhabiting the family home. Vanya is a gay man with no apparent close friends. Sonia was adopted into the family as a young girl, has grown to middle-age with no apparent friends, and no apparent interests. Neither of them is employed, and their successful sister, Masha, pays all the bills.

© 2017 William A. Cotton

The arrival of Lee Osterhout-Kaplan as Masha lights up the stage. Masha, is an over-the-hill actress who is accustomed to having her own way with everything she does, and with everyone she touches. She arrives from her New York home with Spike, her latest gigolo, in tow. She has been through five husbands, and is currently hanging out with a young hunk half her age. Marcus Turner is super as Spike – a handsome dimwit whose main claim to fame has been to have auditioned for a bit part in a tv sitcom. Masha not only rules her young lover, but rules the stage as well. She is impressive.

© 2017 William A. Cotton

Her reason to travel to the family home is to find a realtor to sell the property. While she is in town she’ll take the family to a neighborhood costume party where she plans to reign supreme as Snow White. The family balks at being assigned to supporting roles – dwarfs.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha were given names from Anton Chekov stories beloved by their parents. The Chekhov references are abundant, from names to family discord, even to the fading cherry orchard now reduced to just nine trees. Knowledge of Chekhov is not required, but is an added delight to playwright’ Christopher Durang’s clever story.

© 2017 William A. Cotton

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” opened on Broadway in 2013. Critics praised the show, and it proved to be an immediate commercial success — recouping its initial investment in less than four months. In 2013 it received the Tony Award for Best Play, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, and numerous other honors.

© 2017 William A. Cotton

Direction for this production is by Graham Lier. This is his directorial debut, and he fills the roll admirably. I saw the first Bas Bleu public performance and was impressed with how the entire cast became better and better as the play progressed. I can only imagine how accomplished everyone will be in future performances.

Among the initial standouts: Lee Osterhout-Kaplan as Masha who is already brilliant every moment she is on stage. Jeffrey Bigger’s Vanya provides a tender monologue review of what life was like in the 1950s. Kelly Foerster as Sonia is heart-wrenching when speaking to a gentleman caller by telephone the morning after the costume ball. She came to life that previous evening, and can’t believe that someone was interested in knowing her better. Alexandra Bunger-Pool is a warm-hearted charmer as the neighbor girl who can find happiness everywhere she goes. Jasmine Winfrey is the voodoo-operating housekeeper who is able to put the household in order. Marcus Turner is the not-so bright Spike who has more brawn than brains, and is bewildered by the entire family.

© 2017 William A. Cotton

This production includes high hilarity and poignant pathos. Masha is terrified that her successful life as a sought-after actress may have peaked, and can’t face the reality of being asked to portray the role of a grandmother. Her young lover is happiest when parading around in his undies not caring what anyone around him might think. Vanya and Sonia can’t fathom what life might be like if the house is sold. This is a particularly-well-crafted play. The dreary lives are enhanced to the extent that “hope” is not just around the corner — it is on the doorstep. “There is always hope.”

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” (and Nina and Cassandra) are all in fine form, with this delightful fairly-tale of a family in turmoil.

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”
Where: Bas Bleu Theatre Company
401 Pine Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524
When: To December 17, 2017
For Information: Telephone 970/498-8949 or Click Here

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