Last week if someone had asked me what Snow White, the Tony awards and Chekhov had in common I would have assumed it was the beginning of a bad joke. Instead, the answer is obviously the Phoenix Theatre’s season opener, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike. The title is a mouthful, but the play itself is a delight. The show won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play and audiences will have no trouble figuring out why. Witty dialogue, neurotic characters and a bit of absurdity thrown in for good measure make the show odd, but endearing.
Playwright Christopher Durang introduces us to a group of middle-aged siblings, two of whom still live in their childhood home after spending years caring for their now deceased parents. The third sibling, Masha, became a self-absorbed movie star. The play takes place over one weekend when Masha decides to visit her sedate siblings, Vanya and Sonia (their professor parents named them all after Chekhov characters). The whirlwind weekend includes a costume party, the presence of Masha’s dim-witted boy toy Spike and the sweet presence of their naïve neighbor.
Sonia and Vanya take center stage in the production. Sonia has grown accustom to the monotony of their life, but swings between depression and momentary elation depending on the moment. She regrets “doing nothing” with her life, but is convinced it’s too late to change that. Vanya seems more contented with their lot, but as the layers begin to peel away we see the angst bubbling beneath the polite sheen of the surface.
The cast of this show is particularly notable, reuniting Charles Goad (Vanya) and Diane Kondrat (Sonia) from last year’s production of The Lyons. Both performers have proven their talent for years on Indy stages and always provide wonderful performances. I don’t think I’ve ever had such an emotional reaction while listening to a one-sided phone call as I did during Kondrat’s performance in the second act. Also, it should be noted that the set is beautifully created by Bernie Killian.
Coincidently I happened to read Three Sisters shortly before seeing the show and loved watching the parallel themes unfold in a modern setting. It shares the Russian author’s focus on the lives of siblings living together under one roof and struggling with regret as their lives pass them by. Much like the Anton Chekhov plays it mimics, the show is about happiness. It touches on the question of reality vs. expectations and optimism vs. pessimism. It leaves us wondering if you can appreciate the small things in life more if you expect less. Are the joys of sleepy time tea or the appearance of a blue heron any greater or less than a successful career or finding love if you don’t expect those things in your life? Is it ever too late to pursue the life you truly want?
Don't Miss the Show
For more information about the Phoenix Theatre, visit www.phoenixtheatre.org. The theater is located at 749 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis, just off Massachusetts Ave.
Performances: The show runs until October 20 and offers four performances a week. Thursdays begin at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturdays begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Tickets: To purchase tickets, call (317) 635-PLAY (7529). Prices range from $18 to $28. The play has one intermission.
Photos courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre