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3/14/13

Just Hand All of the Awards Over to Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike


My girl Andrea turned to me at the intermission of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and enthusiastically said, "I can't believe we have a whole second act left. There's a lot going on!"

To which I confidently nodded my head and said, "yup!"

Anyone familiar with this little ol' blog knows that I have been singing the praises of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike since I saw its off-Broadway run at Lincoln Center this past December. And anyone who follows me on the Twitter knows full well I have tweeted about everything from the show's marquee photos to Billy Magnussen's abs to the marquee photos featuring Billy Magnussen's abs. And anyone who is friends with me knows I have been texting them to purchase tickets at whatever cost because they will thank me later. Now open at the Golden Theater, I am happy to report the show is just as sharp as I remember, if not, even more refined. Yay for good news!

Between the transfer to a bigger stage, the show was smart not to change many things because...well, why change what worked for them before? The biggest difference was the conversion from Mitzi E. Newhouse theater's semi-circle, thrust theatre-esque staging to the standard, proscenium-like one the Golden Theater dictates. Obviously, the staging and blocking didn't have to be adjusted all that much and regardless, the director, Nicholas Martin, is a pro and knows how to get it done.

But my favorite aspect is Christopher Durang's fantastic work on the book. He's that chap you want to have a conversation with because he is smart and versed in his Chekov-ology, but he is also comical and campy enough to where you both can laugh uproariously over cocktails. I want to be him when I grow up...maybe one day!

What impresses me most about the story is how fulfilling it is. The set-up is simple enough: Masha and her much-younger slab of man meat, Spike, return home to visit her siblings, Vanya and Sonia. Hijinks ensue! There are enough Chekov references to enact a drinking game because us theater nerds are cool like that (of course). The meta references are a home-run because Durang doesn't even bury them in the script; having the characters openly mention them are a riot within itself. But most importantly, we are given six different, fledged out characters to relate to and a bunch of hilarious shenanigans. From moments that test the boundaries of reality {the housekeeper's psychic foreshadowings, a voodoo doll), to other over-the--top histrionics (all of Masha and Spike's mannerisms, the audience mugging) and some smart wit thrown in, therein lies is the appeal of the show: disparate types of comedy that come together seamlessly and feel thought-out and polished.

Everyone in the cast is bringing their A-game. As in, a round-of-applause occurs with damn-near every site gag, show-stopping one-liners, post-monologues and even character departures at the end of the show. David Hyde Pierce handles Vanya's dry sense-of-humor with ease, while providing a voice of reason/emotional ground for the show's high-camp antics. Kristine Nielsen is flawless as Sonia, whom dons a Maggie Smith impersonation for the ages and manages to turn Sonia's self-pity into laughs with her comedic timing and delivery.

Sigourney Weaver's narcisstic and ultimately insecure Masha is a riot, if only for the sake that she commits to playing into some false perception of herself (oh Durang, you malice). Shalita Grant is a delight as the psychic Cassandra, the cleaning lady, clearly having a blast with all of her sass and outlandish dialogue. And once you re-focus your mind after thinking about the dirty things you want to do to him and all the foods you want to lick off of his body, Billy Magnussen's Spike is so lovably dim-witted and fun-loving, that it is easy to forgive his character's inappropriate-ness that adheres more to 18 years of age as opposed to 29. And Genevieve Angelson is serving up angel-realness as the saccharinely sweet Nina, whom become intertwined in the weekends proceedings when she makes the acquaintance of an almost-nude Spike wafting in the pond...don't act like you wouldn't.

Lovely readers, I FU**ING LOVE this show with a passion and if you were to heed my advice on any of your ticket purchases, it is this: go with this little sleeper-hit that will probably get some notoriety thanks to positive reviews (I'm sure), plus the word-of-mouth of everyone laughing their asses off in the theater. Chekov plays can be a little too serious and some may even be boring (side stare to The Seagull), but through Durang's filter, he churned out a Chekov-inspired piece that breathes with life amidst the darkness of its source material. It is also filled to the brim with more laughs then any other Broadway show in recent memory and I expect that distinction to hold up against all other opening productions. Applause for you Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, not like you need it from me...the thousands of people seeing the show every night have that covered.


Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg via Boston.com
Photo Credit: TTSheldy.blogspot.com

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