Back to Stage

Entourage 2?

Tacoma Little Theatre's production is uneven, but charming and warm

Masha disrupting Sonia and Vanya, as usual. Photo credit: Dennis K Photography

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is an odd little number, a simultaneously zany comedy with references and themes, and a steadfastly old-fashioned play about clashing personalities briefly coming together. There are stretches of reality-breaking whimsy surrounded by cynical allusions to shallow pop culture (a fictional Entourage 2 becomes a running joke, though the play opened three years before the improbable premier of the Entourage movie). As produced by the Tacoma Little Theatre, this is a play that doesn't quite hit farce, but is almost always pitched at an energy so high that it's unclear just how bizarre things will get, from moment to moment.

Three of the titular characters are siblings, named after Anton Chekhov characters. Vanya and Sonia (Martin Larson and Dayna Childs, respectively) are two middle-aged siblings who still live together in the country house where they were raised, and where they recently spent 15 years tending to their elderly parents, now deceased. The house is owned and maintained by their absent, movie star sister Masha (Stephanie Leeper), who shows up unexpectedly with her much younger boyfriend Spike (Freddy Tse) in tow. Add to this mix a clairvoyant cleaning lady (LaNita Hudson) and a beautiful girl next door (Leena Lambert), and you've got all the elements ready for a wacky comedy.

This is where reviewing Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike gets a little tricky. While the performances are uniformly game and charming (particularly from the warm Vanya and Sonia, and the maniacally narcissistic Masha), the material they're working with is largely cute, but weirdly scattered. Having a tonally shifting play such as this can keep you on your toes, but in its worst instances, it can give us scenes like Vanya's staggeringly long monologue, late in the play, aimed at the emptiness of today's youth versus the dignified connectivity found back in the 1950s and ‘60s. It'll doubtlessly be a divisive rant, as evidenced by the laughs of recognition from the older set in the crowd, but it left a sour taste in my mouth. Vanya acknowledging that he sounds like an old crank does not soften the edges.

Echoing sentiments found in works like The Royal Tenenbaums, Vanya and Sasha tends to explore the kind of whammy it can be to have two professor parents who named you after characters from a Russian playwright - these sisters and brother never had a chance to live a normal life. While Sonia and Vanya carry out their days in a stunted existence, removed from outside contact, Masha has worked hard to experience every indulgence of life, which left her every bit as lost. Bits of pathos burst forth from the zaniness, which is enough to keep the viewer engaged up to the frankly pat end.

This is an uneven play, but a well-meaning one, and the moments where it truly shines do a lot to negate the ones that fall a little flat. I saw Vanya and Sonia on opening night, though, this is clearly a play that requires the actors to live in their characters for a little while, which I suspect will smooth out the bumpy patches.

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE, Tacoma Little Theatre, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m., through April 24 $20-$24, 210 N I St, Tacoma, 253.272.2281

Read next close


'Embroidered Spaces'

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search