Looking for a humorous escape from today’s media madness? Atlantic Stage offers a two hour respite in the form of the Christopher Durang comedy, Sonia and Vanya and Masha and Spike.
This 2012 comedy draws on Chekhov for the names and many of the references. But never fear, even if you are not a fan of Russian classics, this play will capture you. The play presents a swirl of activity centering on two middle aged siblings (Sonia and Vanya) still living in the family home. They confront, with varying degrees of upset and angst their successful (who supports them) sister Masha’s plan to sell that home when she swoops in, oversexed boy toy, Spike on her arm. Masha’s clashes with the sibling pair, with Spike and with a local ingénue (Nina) and various offstage presences, including her own insecurities, fuel the comedic enterprise. Housemaid, Cassandra who juxtaposes wild and dire warnings of disasters on the way with banal pronoucements of “tea is ready” and other household business propel the comedy dynamic even further along.
Yes, the play’s Bucks County, Pa., setting is “near a cherry orchard”, and the theme of possible loss of an ancestral home, hark to the Russian theatre classics but here it is giggles, not angst that dominate. The humor in the script is carefully paced out by Director Thom Penn and the great performances of the cast. Staging the show “In the round” adds to the fun, giving the characters like Cassandra, (superbly played by Jess Bryant) a chance to magnify her purposeful exaggerations and wild prediction by having to tramp and vamp around while speaking so that all parts of the audience can enjoy her wonderful facial expressions.
The “master of facial expression award”, however, goes to Atlantic Stage veteran, Mindi Penn as Sonia, who delivers both subtle and overwrought expressions to match the needs of the dialogue and delight the audience. Especially humorous are the moments early the show where Sonia/Penn exhibits a trembling lip to full comedic force before breaking out into tears. That first display sets the bar high for comedic performance and Penn continues to meet and exceed it throughout the play.
Vanya, played by another Atlantic Stage veteran, Steve Harley, is a wonderful , sturdy, calm foil
for the wilder characters. He does a wonderful job of endowing that role with sympathy and sturdiness. Vanya as a character is allowed to blossom more in the second act and Harley gives us just the right touch as an emerging recluse in his reactions to the ingénue neighbor. Nina, the neighbor , is played by Amani Huell, in a luminous Atlantic Stage debut who strikes all the right notes in this role. She is a Coastal Carolina student and I hope we will see more of her.
Masha, played by Kristi Rau McIntyre, captivated the stage and audience whenever she appeared. McIntyre infused the vamping , seemingly overconfident Masha with just the right amount of insensitivity contrasting humorously with her true inner lack of confidence expressed in her worries about Spike’s fidelity (lack thereof). Nick Capone squeezed every possible inch of comedy out of his role as Spike the overblown boy toy character with his exaggerated gyrations throughout. Good timing and cast teamwork kept the action going, scene after scene. I can’t tell you how the play ends, but I can tell you this—you will go away smiling.
Sonia and Vanya and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang
At Atlantic Stage in the Myrtle Beach Mall, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Oct. 23
Ticket prices range from $17.50 for students to $27.50. There are discounts for seniors, military, groups, and ticket packages for multiple performances. Call 1-877-ATS-TKTS for tickets or reserve online at www.atlanticstage.com
Special Package for this Play’s Run
The Brentwood, restaurant is offering (for s few shows) a special meal and ticket combo for only $40 per person. If you want to reserve tickets for the meal and show, call the Brentwood directly for dates, time of dinner, and menu details. 843-249-2601 to reserve your package today, only for the dinner shows on certain dates. Call for dates and reservations. (Reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance, at the restaurant, for this special package). Atlantic Stage is located inside Myrtle Beach Mall near the Carmike Cinemas between Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works. It is about 15-20 minutes from The Brentwood.