“Vanya and Sonia and Masha Spike” Christopher Durang’s 2012 play airs free on Broadway On Demand until April 11. This is a recording that was made for archival purposes by the Lincoln Center Theater and was not originally intended for airing. As such, no camera works at multiple angles and different camera lengths, which makes some online productions almost as good (if not better) than being there.
However, after a year of not being in a theater and watching productions only online, I’m not that picky. It was a pleasure to imagine that I had traveled back in time and watched the production from a seat near the back of the small theater.
As its title suggests, the show plays with allusions to Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard”. The names of the characters, the fact that they are three siblings and the fate of a family house with cherry trees and where blue herons take flight are all reminiscent of the work of the Russian master.
The cast is well directed by David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen and Sigourney Weaver, and supported by Shalita Grant, Billy Magnusson and Genevieve Angelson.
The play initially struck me as too arched, too meta, and also comical in a way that worked best in a room of laughing people. David Hyde Pierce as Vanya was not the master of the French farce he embodied so much on Frasier, and Kristine Nielsen as Sonia was, at first, too deaf. Sigourney Weaver as the imperious, shallow Masha seemed like a caricature, and Billy Magnuson as the too simple Spike boy toy. Geneviève Angelson was ethereal but not much else.
However, as the play progressed, each actor had their moment to shine, and the play became more than just their light jokes, but more about family, the roles we play, and the frustrations of not appreciating who. we are and what we have, and the potential. by aspiring to realize its potential.
As the scenes build, Kristine Nielsen becomes a revelation as she transforms and Sigourney Weaver reconfirms her stature as a wonderfully versatile actress who isn’t afraid to laugh at herself. David Hyde Pierce is more real in this role and Geneviève Angelson’s ingenuous is radiant in a way that only confirms that she will be thrown over and over again (as she has since).
This is not, as mentioned above, the best recording. It might not even be Durang’s best play. But it is a pleasant theatrical experience that one can still live at home. And if, like me, you missed the 2012 performance, it’s a wonderful time machine to cool off on Broadway.