- OnStage New Hampshire Critic
Peterborough, NH - Upon walking into the intimate theatre space to attend Christopher Durang’s Tony-award winning play: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, I immediately noticed the homey, rustic and comfortable set, designed in detail by James Morgan. The “morning room”, as it is referred to in the play, felt cozy and relaxing like a summer home in the mountains. However, that cozy, comfortable, relaxed feeling quickly departed when the play began as Vanya started his day with a cup of coffee and unknowingly set off his sister Sonia.
This wonderfully, written play is about three middle aged siblings. Vanya and Sonia, who, after spending many years caring for their aging parents, have stayed on, living in the family home. Their selfish sister Masha, meanwhile, went off to become an actress and travel the world. On this particular weekend, however, Masha and her much younger boyfriend, Spike, have come to visit Vanya and Sonia and it doesn’t take long for tension to build and old resentments to surface amongst the group. This well-executed production features a cast of six talented actors under the direction of Gus Kaikkonen.
Vanya, played by Kraig Swartz, had great comedic timing and spot-on line delivery throughout the play. His monologue (as a tirade) in act two about how times have changed was amusingly relatable for the audience who understood every pop culture and generational reference he made from Davey Crocket to licking postage stamps. While his monologue went on for quite a while, it never seemed like he was unsure of his place in it. Every reference and every line was delivered with precision in addition to emotional and vocal variation that kept the audience fully engaged with what he was saying. With a speech of that length I think it could have very easily been performed in one tone that would have quickly had the audience zoning out, but not with Swartz. His performance of Vanya, and in particular this speech, was exactly how it should be done.
Sonia, nicely played by Dee Nelson, was very much a sympathetic character who was convinced that opportunities to live an adventurous life were over and who often felt invisible when Masha was around. Nelson portrayed Sonia superbly, especially when Sonia took on the personality of Dame Maggie Smith while the group attended a costume party. Masha, splendidly played by Lisa Bostnar, is a self-centered actress who wasn’t around much when her siblings were caring for their ailing parents, but thanks to the events of this trip home she realizes the importance of family and is able to reconnect with her siblings. Bostnar fully embodied this role and was a delight to watch. Masha’s younger boyfriend Spike, boisterously played by Bobby Mittelstadt, is outrageously eccentric and completely contrasts every other character. It is his young, immature disregard for others, especially his elders, that sends Vanya on his outburst about change and the past. Cassandra, the maid, is entertainingly played by Megan Robinson. Nina, the young niece of a neighbor, aspiring actress and big fan of Masha, is delightfully played by Eleanor Pearson. The cast as a whole brought humorous life to this fun production.
The audience overwhelmingly loved this production as seen by how quickly they arose from their seats to give it a well-deserved standing ovation. This production is rated PG-13 for strong language and adult themes. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike plays on the Peterborough Players stage, 55 Hadley Road, Peterborough, NH, until July 31st. For tickets call the box office at 603-924-7585 or check out www.PeterboroughPlayers.org
For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/