Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is an unusual name for a play, unless you are a fan of Anton Chekhov’s plays.
Chekov is regarded as Russia’s greatest playwright and Vanya is Uncle Vanya from the play of the same name. Sonia comes from Sonya in the same play and Masha from Three Sisters.
In this play they are siblings, named by their parents after the literary characters. Vanya and Sonia live together in middle age in Pennsylvania and Masha is their movie star sister who owns the house.
The play was written by Christopher Durang and premiered in 2012 hitting Broadway in 2013. It win the Tony Award that year for Best Play.
The NZ production and premiere is directed by Susan Wilson, who has previously directed several Chekov plays.
When you enter Circa One, the set dominates the theatre – a lovely middle class house, and garden. The play starts with a fight between Vanya and Sonia who are both miserable in their existence. You learn Sonia is adopted, Vanya is gay, and they have a weird co-dependency.
Gavin Rutherford as Vanya and Rachel Henry as Sonia are excellent. They spark off each other and hurt each other as only family can do. Their cleaner Cassandra (Erina Daniels) provides good comic relief but also important plot elements.
The real tension occurs when sister Masha (Emma Kinane) turns up. Not only does she make her siblings feel worse, she is looking to sell the house. And in tow is her toyboy Spike (Simon Leary). Finally add to the mix the perky Nina (Harriett Prebble) from next door who worships Masha, but Masha fears Spike likes her. This leads to a costume party with much angst over the costumes.
All six actors perform very well, bringing their characters to life.
However I did find myself at a disadvantage not having seen most of Chekov’s plays and understanding the parodies at work. It will still an enjoyable performance, and a good plot, but the ending was somewhat predictable.
The first half was a bit tough going as the characters were all quite unsympathetic, but the second half I enjoyed it much more as they became more rounded.
Overall was enjoyable and makes me want to see some Chekov plays, but I did think it would have been better to have seen them before seeing this.