It’s no wonder that “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” won the Tony for Best Play in 2013.
It’s a marvelous choice for the last show of this season’s productions by the Providence Players of Fairfax who present the (strictly) adult family comedy laced with seriousness, too.
Imagine three middle-aged siblings who don’t always get along, and until the first coffee cup is thrown on the pot, the dialogue is dull like a decaffeinated morning brew.
Two characters are recluses. A brother, Vanya (Christian Faulkner) and sister, Sonia (Jayne Victor) have whittled their lives away taking care of ill parents (now deceased) in a house bought and paid for by their movie star sister, Masha (Connie Shabshab).
Masha’s gone on to bigger and better things and isn’t afraid to remind her siblings. That includes five former husbands and her latest addition to that collection who arrives with her for a visit home – Spike (Ari Post), a 20-something who loves to show off his physical prowess, gallivanting around the stage half-naked like a frog on espresso.
Meanwhile, dour and negative Sonia (who in real life is the Players’ board president) sinks into the brown chair which amplifies her personality but also conceals the quiet rage underneath.
Jimmy Gertzog’s directing skills are impressive as he fleshes out each characters personality with a deft touch. From Masha’s flamboyant Hollywood style to Sonia’s melancholy attitude and spite for her sister and finally to Vanya’s repressed angst at a world that’s moving too fast for him, all the characters are lumped together in a believable adhesion.
The supporting cast adds their own flair to the mix. There’s the hilarious housemaid Cassandra (Rachel Arling Samson), whose every appearance draws bigger laughs with her voodoo practices, her ability to accurately predict the future and her Greek aphorisms. And the lovely Nina (Lindsey Doane), an enthusiastic, vibrant, happy young woman who simultaneously enchants Spike and angers Masha.
The play comes to a climax at a costume party toward the end. Without giving away any spoilers, the family drama intensifies due to a surprise news announcement and leaves all three siblings at odds with one another before, organically, reaching a resolution.
The crowded set by John Coscia (also the producer) took some time to put together, with its living room and kitchen flooded with knick knacks, pictures covering about every surface and old furniture to match the characters.(I kept wishing someone would open the window curtain to reveal something green and refreshing outdoors, but that would have been too healthy.)
Robey Manno and Ariana Colligan are the prop masters, and Andra Whitt and Craig Geoffrion assisted Coscia.
Applause to Roxanne Waite for her costumes for Sonia (in browns), the delicate Nina, swooping Masha and the others.
For those unfamiliar with Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, do not be intimidated by this play which features his titles, names and theatrical elements. They’re skillfully woven into the script by Christopher Durang so that all can enjoy a good time in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which but could be Anywhere, U.S.A. Even, Falls Church.
Other key crew members include Chip Gertzog, stage manager; Sarah Mournighan, lighting and projection design; Beth Harrison, hair and makeup; and Jason Hamrick and Nicolas Queyrane, technical crew.
Last performances are this weekend, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Buy tickets online (no added fee) at providenceplayers.org, or reserve by email at [email protected] or phone 703-425-6782. Adults ($20), students and seniors (62+), $17. Shows take place at the James Lee Community Center Theater (2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church).
The show lasts about two and a half hours (though it seems much shorter) with one brief intermission.