“WE LICKED POSTAGE STAMPS!” exclaims the exasperated old man, by this time a little more than halfway through his emotional tirade. Seems about right.
Our old man, Vanya (played by Michael Joseph, MCAS ’18), paces hurriedly across the stage, his voice intensifying with each new word of the nostalgia-loaded monologue. Without the grandeur of Robsham Theater’s elevated stage, portrait frame, and 600-or-so upholstered chairs, the Bonn Studio Theater establishes a palpable intimacy perfect for this scene—and all others—in this charming adaptation of the Christopher Durang comedy.
Director Maisie Laud, MCAS ’16, brings Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike to Boston College this weekend, with the show running from Nov. 12 to 15. A contemporary comedy that meshes characters and themes from some of Anton Chekhov’s most popular plays, Durang’s script spurs decidedly depressing aspects of old age and spins them into a humorous dialogue filled with witty jokes and sarcastic banter. A weekend in the life of three unmarried 50-somethings whose sibling rivalries and long-held grudges threaten the family reunion, the play’s characters are both realistic and relatable. Laud gives great attention to Durang’s original piece, as her version doesn’t stray far from the script or tangle itself in unnecessary alterations to the story.
Set predominantly in the living room of their childhood home, Vanya and his adopted sister Sonia (Erica Fallon CSOM ’18) open the play with a meaningless argument about coffee. The play is flooded with insignificant fights like this one—actually, the vast majority of the characters’ problems stem from trivial issues that the dialogue makes fit for the stage. From fights over appropriate running attire to controversy over which character’s costumes is best, the actors comically portray the tragically monotonous lives of their characters through self-aware side comments and deliberate overreaction.
Vanya’s unassuming persona and Sonia’s woe-is-me worrying are met with the bragadocious bravado of sister and hollywood star Masha (Marybeth Dull, LSOE ’17). Toting around her younger beau Spike (played by Michael Quinn, MCAS ’19), Masha gleefully announces her decision to sell the beloved family home for the sole purpose of acquiring the hefty sum she was promised. Together, this cast of wildly cantankerous characters makes for an entertaining take on the typical family dynamic.
Finally, after a few scathing comments and some mild sexual innuendos are exchanged, an element of drama ensues after the self-absorbed Spike meets the beautiful Nina (Caitlin Ferris, CSOM ’19)—an old-fashioned film fanatic whose intelligence, relative youth, and pep threaten Masha’s strong hold on the young stud Spike. The actors entangled in the love triangle play their parts perfectly, as Masha’s seething jealousy juxtaposed with Nina’s sickeningly sweet persona provides the audience with a hilarious one-sided competition for Spike’s affection. Arguably, the best part of the play is Cassandra the clairvoyant housekeeper (played by Jessie Shaw, MCAS ’19). Shaw is responsible for most of the play’s laughs, as the odd antics and cartoonish gestures of a smart-mouthed psychic are performed perfectly by Shaw.
Despite the show’s hilarity, Durang’s story doesn’t shy away from the stark realities of life. Shrouded in a tone of melancholy, the play constantly switches from light hearted gaiety to introspective anxiety about death and how we sometimes waste our lives away. Despite the difficulty of representing both aspects of Durang’s complex piece, Laud ties the opposing moods together expertly. The result is an appropriate balance—a comedy that is interrupted by a harsh slap of reality whenever it seems the audience is having too much fun.
Thanks to corny jokes and great stage direction, the BC Dramatics Society’s adaptation of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a performance worth watching.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor