Under the direction of Robin Richard, Your Theatre’s latest offering, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” by Christopher Durang, is a winner because its actors skillfully and believably become the characters they play.
The play was also the literal winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play. For Durang fans (and foes), this script is probably more tame than some of his other works and very worth seeing.
As for the names of the play’s characters and ensuing scenarios, Durang was quoted as saying, “My play is not a Chekov parody … I take Chekov scenes and characters and put them into a blender.”
The resulting confection is a delicious combination of intuitive direction, shrewd acting skill, and the ability to elicit laughs galore.
Susan Wing Markson has appeared on the Your Theatre stage before; yet her portrayal of depressed, dejected, underdog Sonia, is perfection. More to the point, the role is arguably the best thing she’s done with this group.
Markson is a natural for Durang’s offbeat humor; she embraces it in lines and body language and most important, in intent. Her deadpan delivery and unexpected emotional outbursts are clearly understood by the actress, while convincing us that she (and Sonia) is not embellishing but living the circumstances and states of mind they represent.
Markson’s portrayal is enchanting and remarkably poignant, especially in her phone call monologue with “Joe.”
Eric Paradise is Vanya, brother to Sonia and self impressed, celebrity sister, Masha (Laura T. Bomback). Paradise is so naturally akin to the emotional aspects of the characters he plays that resemble his own in every role. Vanya is no exception. Sometimes, he is Sonia’s male counterpart; sometimes he strikes out on his own in revealing, self-expression.
No matter what the scene or situation, comedy is still harder to achieve than heavy drama. You can reduce an audience to tears. It’s so much harder to make them laugh. Paradise knows the formula.
On stage, timing is, indeed, everything. An actor’s individual signature can be molded, educated, sculpted.
Talents like those of Paradise spring from pure instinct. Yes, a director can move actors around a stage for a better stage picture; but you can’t necessarily teach instinct. His nostalgic 50s monologue is amazing.
What can’t Caroline Paradise do? She, too, makes every character she plays as easy to believe as breathing.
In this show, she plays Cassandra, the gypsy-ish housekeeper. Amid gestures and incantations and unending physical bits, Paradise is convincing (even if Cassandra is over the top) and loveable.
Laura T. Bomback as high maintenance sister, Masha, is equally likeable, even if the character is high strung, egotistical and essentially taxing. What makes Masha so funny is Bomback’s straight-faced delivery and narrow understanding of anything that does not revolve around her.
Watch for her entrance as Snow White.
Masha comes to the family home with buff boy toy, Spike (Daniel Gabriel Sallom) in tow; an acting hopeful who enjoys dressing and undressing, no matter where or why.
What is so special about Sallom in silly roles like this one is his ability to stay out of his own way and just let the nuances of the character emerge. He just goes with the comedic flow with excellent success.
Nina (Briana Berthiaume) is impressive as the family’s neighbor down the road. Berthiaume is expressive, inventive and immediately likeable. Her speaking voice and poised movement are precisely and sincerely delivered.