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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike' make great company in Reston

Will MacLeod is Spike in Reston Community Players' Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike/photo by Traci J. Brooks

Some call it a dark comedy. I would label it a grey comedy, not as bleak or black, but a stimulating work which is a terrific beginning to another new year of our lives, where you just might recognize some of the characters on stage,  maybe yourself, in the Reston Community Players' newest production, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.
Suzy Alden, left, is Nina, and Joanne Maylone is Masha in Reston Community Players' Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike/photo by Traci J. Brooks

Familiar themes are included:  young v. old, the passage of time and life, material possessions, the longing for something bigger, better, more.  This is a comedy?

Why don't you get up and do something?  
The play opens with middle-aged siblings, Vanya (Andrew JM Regiec) and Sonia (Lee Slivka), sitting at home in their jammies, musing the coming day, whiling away their time, like they do every day, bored, listless, and hungry for something more, something to jolt them from complacency which comes that day and every day in the form of a fight over the silliest of things.  

Of course.  Isn't that the way it always is?

On this particular day (which takes place in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the home of the playwright, Christopher Durang), more friction arrives in the person of their moneyed sister, a whirlwind actress, Masha (Joanne Maylone) who comes for a visit and announces she may sell the house since she's the one who bought it, she's the one who has paid the bills, paid for their now dead parents' care, and she's the one who has paid for it all! 

Never mind that her reclusive brother and sister live in the house, who cared for their aging parents, who have nowhere to go. 

What's consideration got to do with it? 

Or love? 

Oh, what a shame it all is:  Masha's been married and divorced five times, boo hoo hoo, and Sonia's life has been nothing but a waste.  Cry me a river, but carried on Masha's arm is her latest charm, a 20s something lad, Spike (or Spite) (Will MacLeod) who loves to sport his physical prowess in exaggerated form throughout the show, always a laugh. He strips and prances around in his underwear like a unicorn, to the delight of the male and females on stage (not to mention those in the audience).

Another late entrant to the party is the pretty and dainty Nina (Suzy Alden) whose youth, smile, 
exuberance and failure to recognize diatribes heaved at her, contrast sharply with the aged and emotionally infirm brother and sisters into whose house Spike enthusiastically welcomes Ninabelle. 

Soothsayer and housemaid, Cassandra (Alexa Yarboro) is my very favorite character.  She adds a balanced element to the drained family, with her charm, words of wisdom, and frequent spinner of the future. She is like an infusion of a power drink gulped every so often, whose literary masterpieces flung hither and yon are hilarious. 

Direction by Tel Monks is fabulous. Witness the sparking performances.  Among other things, he skillfully draws out Masha's flamboyance (she has wings) which reminded me of Joan Crawford (probably because I just saw Mommie Dearest on the telly, a true horror show!).  

The single set (by Maggie Modig) is all that is needed to carry the play, and far more than expected of a regional theatre.  From a large, heavily decorated parlor, the characters make their ways to an offsite kitchen, or stairs to bedrooms, or they gaze through binoculars to watch the naked at the pond in the distance.

Lighting by Adam Konowe is expertly crafted from the changing of the day to the car headlights to spotlights on an individual.  

Knowledge of Russian Anton Chekhov's writings is not required, but increased listening pleasure is a surety for those who have it (or some of it).

In 2013 Vanya and friends won the Tony for Best Play, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play, among other distinctions.

The setting says "morning room" which becomes "mourning room" which becomes the "morning of the rest of your life."  You'll come away with thoughts which linger beyond your short time to mingle with Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.  

Give a girl a tiara and sequins and see what she can be!

The production team includes JoAnn Monks, assistant director; Amy Headlee, stage manager; Bea and Jerry Morse, producers; Mary Jo Ford, properties design; Jon Roberts, sound design; Judy Whelihan, costume design, Sandy Dotson, property mistress; Lilya Eberle, running crew chief; Tom Geuting, master carpenter; and Sue Pinkman, hair and makeup.

WhatVanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

When:  8 p.m., Jan. 27 and 28; Feb. 3 and 4; and 2 p.m., Jan. 29, 2017

Where:  Reston Community Center, 2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston, VA  20191

How much: $21, adults; $18, students and seniors

Tickets:  Buy online or call 703-476-4500 and press 3 for the 24-hour ticket ordering system.

Language:  Adult, with F-bombs dropping occasionally. 

Duration:  About 2 1/2 hours with one 15-minute intermission.


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