The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
And Sonia And Masha And Spike
Lincoln Center Theater Spring 2021
mixed with dark comedy, open sentimentality and righteous indignation,
pop culture and high culture references, and the suggestion that there's
something deeper going on than there actually is anyone who knew
playwright Christopher Durang only from his first hit, 1979's Sister
Mary Ignatius Explains It All To You, would recognise his hand in this
Produced by the
Lincoln Center Theater before moving to Broadway to win the following
year's Best Play Tony, it is now available online.
The first three
named characters are middle-aged siblings whose parents were Chekhov
buffs, and their lives and conversations are sprinkled with Chekhov
references. Vanya and Sonia live in the family home (complete with a
grove, if not quite an orchard of cherry trees), supported by Masha, a
movie star facing the prospect of relegation to mother roles.
Masha visits with her latest toyboy, the particularly dim-but-hunky Spike, and meets the starstruck wannabe actress Nina and just to mix metaphors the cleaning lady Cassandra, prone to gnomic warnings of impending doom. Masha wants to sell, but the others have no place least of all Moscow to go to.
everyone off to a local costume party where, to her chagrin, the
ordinarily lumpen Sonia is a big hit with her Maggie Smith
written a play in the style of and almost as bad as Konstatine's in
The Sea Gull, which, of course, Nina gets to act in, before being
interrupted by an extended screed by Vanya against just about everything
that has happened in his life or in the world at large since he was a
child in the 1950s.
Nobody goes to
Moscow, but somehow things end more-or-less happily.
spotting all the literary allusions and enjoying the frequent
understated ironic comments, usually from David Hyde Pierce's Vanya, the
pleasure for the audience will come in the opportunities for a talented
cast to show off.
Weaver makes Masha a self-paodying mix of Chekhov's Arkadina and any
modern rock diva in her broad theatricality, constantly posing for
imaginary cameras, and an egocentricity so absolute and ingrained as to
be almost forgivable.
Pierce effortlessly steals scene after scene just by underplaying, only
to grab the spotlight and not let it go for Vanya's simultaneously sad
and comic celebration of the 1950s.
tour-de-force of both writing and performance, even if one wonders how
many in a 21st-century audience will respond as the playwright hopes to
mentions of Howdy Doody, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen and Senor Wences.
Nielsen gets the single most moving moment in the play as Sonia
discovers just how much of a hit she was at that party. Genevieve
Angelson (Nina), Shalita Grant (Cassandra) and Billy Magnussen (Spike)
provide solid support by playing characters written somewhat as
stereotypes will full commitment.
What is it all about? Something about family, something about roots, something about accepting change, something about having once taken an undergraduate course in Russian drama and probably not as much about any of those things as it pretends. But it's a lot of fun.
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