"Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" Brings the Comedy in “Dramedy”


Imagine three siblings, all in their late 50s, bickering and clawing like petulant 15-year-olds.  Then throw in a clairvoyant housekeeper, a naïve young beauty, and a vacant gesticulating boy toy, and you get … Anton Chekhov? 

Well, maybe …  

This is Christopher Durang's "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," playing now through June 23 at the Gloucester Stage Co. Theater.  The contemporary comedy is Durang’s nod to the 19th Century Russian playwright Anton Chekhov and his revered play, “Uncle Vanya.”

The play, though, requires no knowledge of Chekhov to enjoy it. 

And enjoy it you will. 

It’s modern, it’s quirky, and it’s at times both hilarious and deeply poignant as it follows three adult siblings in Pennsylvania who reunite in their childhood home and—in madcap fashion—and are somehow able to work through many of life’s biggest challenges. 

The comedy is directed by Gloucester Stage Co. artistic director Rebecca Bradshaw as part of the Gloucester Stage Co.’s 45th season. 

There’s Vanya and Sonia (played by Diego Arciniegas and Adrianne Krstansky), eccentric brother and sister who are stuck with each other at home after putting their lives on hold to care for their elderly parents.  They bicker and buzz and hilariously engage their amazing and zany housecleaner, Cassandra (played by Eryn O’Sullivan), who breathlessly toggles between serving as soothsayer and screwball. 

If the play focused on just these three characters, it would be comedy gold.  But, as they say, there’s more …

The drama in this “dramedy” is triggered when Vanya and Sonia’s sister, Masha (played by Rockport native Wendy Waring), returns to Pennsylvania after a big Hollywood acting career.  Masha is accompanied by her boy toy, Spike (Jaime José Hernández), and is set on a mission involving her siblings.  In the middle of all this is a beautiful, naïve neighbor, Nina (played by Valyn Lyric Turner), who—literally without trying—brings out the worst insecurities in the aging actress, Masha.

Vania and Sonia’s life is tranquil and quirky, yes, but it’s melancholic.  Masha’s life is filled with hilarious high maintenance melodrama, but it, too, is melancholic. 

This play is a smart play loved by theater lovers.  In her opening remarks on Sunday, Bradshaw shared that the Tony-award winning Christopher Durang died only last month, giving this particular production added significance beyond Gloucester Stage Co.’s milestone season. 

And, alas, Durang’s dialogue is so smart, and quick, and entertaining.  But these actors’ performances take Durang’s writing to new levels.  Each actor in this cast brings a truly unique style to each character.  Krstansky, as Sonia, made the audience nearly spit with laughter one minute because of her jealousy and insecurity.  Later, she nearly made them cry.  The same was true for the rest of the cast.

“I knew we wanted to launch this season with a big comedy.  I’ve always loved Chekhov and Durang, so this mashup seemed kismet,” shared Bradshaw.  “Deep down, this play asks us to slow down, lift our heads up from our screens, and see each other - a message we need more than ever.”

That’s all true.  “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” is accessible and entertaining.  It’s also witty and often absurd.  As with all great comedy, it’s humor that nudges the audience to contemplate the complexities of life.  In the end, the story is a testament to the enduring power of family and our capacity for hope. 

Go, and see it.


Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Gloucester Stage Company | 267 East Main St., Gloucester.

May 31 to June 23:  Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, Matinees Saturdays & Sundays at 3pm