Recommended *** They say that “laughter is good for what ails you”, and I for one believe this to be the case. Which makes a great case for the current production on the stage of The Goodman Theatre, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”. This is an American farce that has some inane story-lines, unreal characters and situations, but ultimately allows us the opportunity to leave our troubles and thoughts out on Dearborn Avenue as we enjoy laughing at the characters and situations in Christopher Durang’s “tour de farce” about an unusual family.
Smoothly directed by Steve Scott on a magnificent (move in ready) set by Charlie Corcoran with casting that is sheer perfection, you will find yourself laughing at the different situations. Not just titters, but out loud guffaws. The show has many clichés and a number of odd situations, but as I said earlier, laughter is what it is all about and to be honest, I felt that the actors were having as good a time as was the audience.
Let me get to the main story; Vanya (an incredible understated character portrayed by Ross Lehman, who gets his turn in the second act-boy does he) and his adopted sister Sonia (played to perfection by Janet Ulrich Brooks) are having their morning coffee. They have lived in the family house all their lives taking care of their departed parents and somehow life has passed them by. Their sister, Masha (an incredible Mary Beth Fisher who constantly shows just how versatile she is), a glamorous fading movie star arrives, unexpectedly ,with her younger plaything, Spike (deftly handled by Jordan Brown) shows up to make an announcement.
It turns out that the cleaning lady, a soothsayer, Cassandra (E. Faye Butler is terrific) predicts just about everything that takes place.There is also a young girl next door, visiting who kindles some of her own fires. Nina (the lovely Rebecca Buller) ends up joining the family on this crazy week-end of activities that changes the lives of each and every character. There are little scenes where each character gets to do his or her “thing” and get their past repressions off their chests. Ross Lehman, who is much more laid back than usual gets to spread his wings in the second act with his rant about the modern world versus the 1950’s and all the great memories that were contained in those decades. A shining light for this elf us who recall the dial phone, the 4 channel tv set in black and white, and things like white-out and typewriters. This scene is worth the price of a ticket alone.
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” is a wonderful diversion that allows us to look at our own lives. Middle age regrets of the things we should have or could have done, aging alone, becoming a has-been, facing failure and all with a comical overtone. Enter the theater with any problems on your mind, exit with a smile on your face and a pleasant feeling inside. Amy Clark’s costumes are sparklingly clever, Richard Woodbury’s sound, and original music add to the evening’s delight and Robert Perry’s lighting, sheer perfection. The play will continue at The Goodman, located at 170 N. Dearborn Street through July 26th with performances as follows:
Thursdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on July 5th and 12th
July 13th and 20th are Mondays but there will be performances at 7:30 p.m.
NO PERFORMANCE ON July 3rd or July 4th
Tickets range from $27-79 and are available at the box office, by calling 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Vanya where you can also learn about special events connected to this production. To see what others are saying and I expect this one to have a mixed bag, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”. Running time, 2 hours with an intermission.