By KYLE LEHMANN
One afternoon last week, my roommate and I headed out to see the UMW production of “Vanya, Sonia, Masha, and Spike” in Klein Theater. Initially, I was about as excited to see the play as anyone who is forced to attend an event for a class would be. However, when the play was over, I was happy that I went because of the surprisingly complex and entertaining cast of characters in this production.
The play features the boring lives of two unmarried adults. Sonia, portrayed by Lily Olsen, is the 53 year-old adopted sister of Vanya, a 57 year-old gay man. The opening is of the two going through a morning routine, a mundane process that is exacerbated by how mundane these two characters appear to be at first.
Background of their boring demeanor is later explained as a product of being stripped of their jobs, social lives, and energy – for the past 15 years, they had been caring for their now late parents who were suffering from Alzheimer’s. All they have is each other and their eccentric, psychic cleaning lady Cassandra, played by Olivia Whicheloe, who tells them to beware almost everything and never fails to make the audience laugh everytime she appears.
The rest of the play is built around the arrival of their sister. Masha, played by Lauren Frautschi, is a successful movie star who has been supporting the family for the past 15 years. Her bombastic personality and narcissistic flair contrasts comically with the quiet, humble lives of Vanya, Sonia, and Cassandra.
Adding to the complication of her arrival is Masha’s much younger boyfriend, Spike. Played by Jacob Dodges, Spike is an aloof and energetic character prone to stripping off his clothes, whose main claim to fame was almost being cast as the lead in Entourage 2. What makes this more chaotic is the fact that the neighbors’ sweet adult niece, Nina, played by Maddie Petroskey, is visiting, adding drama to the relationship between Masha and Spike.
Although the overarching dilemma of the play is Masha’s announcement that she’ll be selling their childhood home, the various sub-plots dominate the play.
Sonia wants to truly live but is afraid of her awkwardness getting in the way. Vanya has been writing a play for some time but is afraid of it not being any good. Masha fears she’ll lose Spike to the newer, younger Nina. The overarching theme is that that they have all wasted their lives away — Sonia and Vanya sacrificing everything for their parents and Masha with her movies that cost her five husbands and her family.
Although it is billed as a comedy, the UMW production certainly did an excellent job giving the serious parts the respect they deserved. The actors did a great job of pivoting from moments where the audience howled with laughter to somber moments of such silence that you could hear a pin drop in the theatre.
Overall, UMW’s production of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” was funny, deep, and a great way to spend an afternoon or evening with friends. It will certainly make a great addition to the wall of plays that decorate DuPont Hall.