Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Return Review - Chekhov Dances

Loosely based on “The Cherry Orchard” by renowned Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE may throw poor old Anton for a loop. Playwright Christopher Durang has a ball poking fun at Chekhov’s well-known works. Skillfully directed by Barbara Tarbuck, this is a play which will have the audience laughing from beginning to end. In fact, audience response was so positive during its fall engagement that Durang’s prize-winning comedy has returned for another uproarious stab at Chekhov.

Michelle Danner as Sonia and Bjorn Johnson as Vanya - Photo by Teferi Seifu

Chekhov never gets old, and this hilarious new take on “The Cherry Orchard” sends Vanya (Bjorn Johnson) and his adopted sister Sonia (Michelle Danner) to a quiet and peaceful farmhouse in Pennsylvania where they have lived undisturbed since childhood.  Meanwhile, their sister Masha (Christine Dunford) has been traveling the world as a famous movie star.

Christine Dunford as Masha - Photo by Teferi Seifu

When Masha unexpectedly returns to the family homestead with her cute boy toy Spike (Nate Golon), a family reunion ensues. But this isn’t the warm and cuddly reunion you’d expect. Rivalry, regret, and ruckus become the order of the day. Masha isn’t quite ready to grow old, and Vanya and Sonia aren’t quite ready to engage in juvenile monkey business – or are they? Clearly, things are about to happen – but only Cassandra (Tamika Katon-Donegal), Vanya’s Jamaican housekeeper, has the special gifts to foresee the direction they will take. Meanwhile, Spike has some difficulty keeping his shirt on.

Nate Golon as Spike - Photo by Teferi Seifu

Alessandra Manias’ set design elegantly brings the farmhouse to life, while Larae Mychel’s costumes lend special flavor to the show. The entire production team does a great job of bringing Chekhov into the present while still preserving flashbacks of his past. And let’s not forget the talented actors who flesh out each of their characters so successfully.

Remi Nozik as Nina - Photo by Teferi Seifu

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE is living evidence that great plays are not tied to any one place or time. Special kudos to Michelle Danner (Sonia) and Bjorn Johnson (Vanya), who manage to portray some very complex characters with finesse. The play also demonstrates that poking fun at icons can lead to some very funny and equally poignant situations. Wherever he is, Chekhov is probably chuckling at the zany antics that his plays inspired.

Michelle Danner and Bjorn Johnson - Photo by Teferi Seifu

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE runs through March 11, 2017, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 5 p.m. on Sundays. The Edgemar Center for the Arts Alexander Theater is located at 2437 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets are $35. For information and reservations, call 310-392-7327 or go online.         

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