‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ is over-the-top

By David L. Coddon

Old Globe production leads our rundown of local plays

You need not be well-versed in the work of the venerable Anton Chekhov to appreciate Christopher Durangs Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Even if you dont know a cherry orchard from a neighborhood playground, youll enjoy the madcap antics of Durangs delightfully dysfunctional characters.

Its by and large over-the-top comedy, with sight gags and shameless Chekhov allusions to spare. But its easy to see why this show, now on stage at The Old Globe Theatre, directed by Jessica Stone, was a Tony winner on Broadway. Besides, theres just enough heart in the script—especially in the case of wallflower Sonia (Marcia DeBonis)—to ensure that the broadly behaving characters are well-rounded ones. Well, maybe not Spike (Tyler Lansing Weaks), whos supposed to be shallow, but what he does during a striptease with the belt of his trousers makes up for his shallowness.

The story finds a brother and adopted sister, Vanya (Martin Moran) and Sonia, living contentedly (though they bicker a lot) in the peaceful Bucks County, Pennsylvania, home owned by their sister Masha (Candy Buckley), whos an extremely neurotic actress—and can she ever emote. When Masha and her boy toy, Spike, show up, the tirades and recriminations and verbal barbs (all played for laughs) get ramped up and all peacefulness is gone. Whether Masha will sell the house thats been her siblings only home is a key plot point, but its not really what the play is about. It sounds corny, but its ultimately about family.

Stone directs these four (along with Haneefah Wood, who has a blast overplaying the future-forecasting cleaning woman, Cassandra, and Allison Layman) with a deft hand. Even at the plays most outrageous moments—and there are many of them—VSM&S never degenerates into slapstick. Buckley just about rules the stage as Masha, as she should, and DeBonis brings keen sympathy to Sonias lot in life. And Morans Act 2 appreciation for the simpler time that was the 50s is breathless.

It all unfolds on a sumptuous set by David Korins. The house and environs are the kind you wouldnt mind settling into yourself. Minus the family chaos. Or maybe youd like the family chaos because it reminds you of your own family.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike runs through June 22 at The Old Globe. $29 and up. oldglobe.org

—David L. Coddon

Write to davidc@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.


Dog and Pony: In this world-premiere musical comedy, things get complicated for a team of screenwriters when one gets a divorce and the other realizes she wants something more than a professional partnership. Opens May 28 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org

Faded Glory: A world-premiere comedy based on a real-life Congress member and Civil War general who nearly lost the war for the Union forces. Opens in previews on May 28 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org

Milvotchkee, Visconsin: Billed as a comedy about a tragedy, its about a woman who works as a park docent in Wisconsin and is suffering from dementia. Presented by Moolelo Performing Arts Company, it opens May 29 at the 10th Avenue Arts Center in East Village. moolelo.net

The Miss Firecracker Contest: A 24-year-old Mississippi woman seeks to shed her reputation for promiscuity by entering and, hopefully, winning the titular competition. Opens in previews on May 30 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org

My Son the Waiter, a Jewish Tragedy!: A one-man show written and performed by Brad Zimmerman, who went to New York to try to make it as an actor and then waited tables for nearly 30 years. Opens May 28 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. lyceumevents.org

The Sunshine Boys: CBS asks a retired Vaudeville duo—who split after a years worth of not speaking to each other off the stage—to reunite for a TV special. Opens May 31 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org

Now playing

Lost in Yonkers: Its the 1940s, and a man causes upheaval in his extended family when he decides he needs to make money as a traveling salesman. Presented by Oceanside Theatre Company, it runs through June 1 at Brooks Theatre. oceansidetheatre.org

9 to 5: the Musical: An adaptation of the 1980 film, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, about three women who scheme to get even with their boorish boss. Through June 7 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.com

Theres No Place Like Home: A world-premiere musical about a young disabled woman who has to learn to cope with homelessness. Presented by Circle Circle dot dot, it runs through June 7 at Ocean Beach Playhouse. circle2dot2.com

The Book of Mormon: In the acclaimed musical by the creators of South Park, two Mormon missionaries are sent to Uganda to convert the locals, who are not the slightest bit interested in being converted. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs through June 8 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com

The Clean House: The story of a woman, her maid who doesnt like cleaning houses and her husband who falls in love with another woman whos dying of cancer. Through June 8 at PowPAC in Poway. powpac.org

Happy Days: Sledgehammer theater company returns from six years in hibernation to stage Samuel Becketts play with two characters, one who spends eternity partially buried in dirt and one who lives in a cave to escape unforgiving heat. Through June 8 at the 10th Avenue Arts Center in East Village. sledgehammer.org

Mud Blue Sky: A teenage pot dealer on his way home from the prom ends up in a Chicago hotel room with three veteran flight attendants in this funny drama about making ends meet. Through June 8 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com

Chasing the Song: A young, female songwriter hits the male-dominated American pop-music scene in the early 1960s just as the British Invasion is starting to change everything. Through June 15 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org

The Motherf**ker with the Hat: A former drug dealer fresh out of prison is back with his addict girlfriend and desperate to know whom the mans hat in her apartment belongs to. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through June 22 at Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike: A successful actress returns home to Pennsylvania, where her siblings have spent much of their adult lives caring for their now-deceased parents, and shes brought her dumb, much younger boyfriend with her. Through June 22 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org

Twelfth Night: In Shakespeares romantic comedy, much love is professed and identities are mistaken after a shipwreck on the Adriatic coast. Through June 29 at Lambs Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org

Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net