Jenny Wanasek as Sonia and C. Michael Wright as
Vanya in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and
by Paul Ruffolo
- Christopher Durang, a prolific, absurdist playwright,
has combined a passing salute to Anton Chekhov for
setting and themes, but one does not have to be familiar
with his work to catch the humor of this piece.
is the story of a family of three sibs, two of whom are
still living in their family home (Vanya and Sonia) and
one who has successfully pursued a career in film and is
providing support for them (Masha). The two who have
cared for their aging parents feel that they have
sacrificed everything and have had no chance to develop
lives of their own, and the one who supports their
existence feels put upon.
viewing the two stay-at-homes in all their dysfunction
and ennui, the diva (Masha) swoops in with her
larger-than-life ego and her new boy toy (Spike). They
are both self-impressed and in need of attention and
the fifth character, is a young woman who is visiting a
neighbor. She stops by to gush over Masha, whom she
idolizes. Nina dreams of pursuing a theatrical career
and Sonia have few pleasures in life. They’re both in
their 50s and feel that they’ve missed something, that
life is over for them. Sonia especially wallows in her
misery. Her idea of life’s only two joys are fixing
Vanya’s coffee in the morning and watching for the
blue heron that visits their pond. After that, nothing.
Enter their bombastic maid, Cassandra, who is always
making dire predictions. She has boundless energy and an
abiding faith in her abilities to see into the future.
She provides much of the humor. Rána Roman is
absolutely perfect in this role.
costume party at the famous Dorothy Parker’s home is
the catalyst for self-revelation and change in all the
characters who attend the party. While they’re all
pretending to be someone else, they discover sides of
themselves they weren’t completely aware of. Though we
don’t see the party, we experience its repercussions
afterward. One of the most interesting effects is
Sonia’s suspicion that she might be attractive to
someone after all.
of the best scenes in the play is Sonia’s reaction to
one of the guests she met when he calls. Jenny
Wanasek’s extraordinary talents shine in this scene.
loved Vanya’s break-out speech when he waxes eloquent
over the past. C. Michael Wright aced this scene.
Masha (Carrie Hitchcock) reveals that she is missing
something in her life: the joy of caring for someone
other than herself.
plays the drama queen with verve, JJ Phillips as Spike
has the perfect body to contrast with his pea brain, and
Elodie Senetra as the dreamy Nina provides a sharp
contrast to those who have experienced life and its many
disappointments. A little hope never really hurt anyone.
was probably trying to do too much here, the characters
are somewhat stereotypical, and the play has no clear
through-line, but it is still very enjoyable for its
many memorable moments and its incomparable acting. The
play is well-directed by Marcella Kearns with an awesome
set designed by Brandon Kirkham.
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”
play runs through Aug. 28 at the Milwaukee Chamber
Theatre in the Broadway Theater Center at 158 N.
Broadway in Milwaukee. Call 414-291-7800 or visit