IU Theatre’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike riffs on Chekhov, reflects on family

Sep 23, 2016

Bloomington, Ind –  This October, Indiana University Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance will present Christopher Durang’s inventive and darkly funny play Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike in the Wells-Metz Theatre.

This absurd family comedy quickly became a staple of American theatre after its Tony Award winning Broadway production in 2013, and has been in the top ten most produced plays in the United States every year since.

Aging movie-star Masha (Abby Lee) returns to her childhood home, where her middle-aged siblings Vanya (Tino Brokaw) and Sonia (Tara Chiusano) still live. She brings in tow her hunky new boyfriend Spike (Robert Toms), who is half her age and can’t seem to keep his clothes on. The drama escalates with a battle over dwarves and a wicked queen, a pretty neighbor (Talia Santia) who competes for Spike’s attention, the housekeeper Cassandra (Brianna Milan) espousing prophecies of doom, and Masha threatening to sell the house and uproot her brother and sister.

Department Chair Jonathan Michaelsen will direct the production, highlighting both the comedy of the play but also its depth of character. “It’s funny and touching at the same time,” Michaelsen says. “Durang is a great playwright, and he’s able to combine his humor with characters that have hearts. They have a journey; they go through a clear arc. It’s a farce, but we also need to build characters that are honest.”

The production features work from MFA designers Alana Yurczyk (scenic design), Courtney Foxworthy (costume design), and Bridget Williams (lighting design).

Though Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is heavy on inside theatre jokes and Chekhov references, Durang has repeatedly emphasized in interviews that the play is universal, and audiences don’t need to have a theatre background to understand his humor. Durang also stressed, during an interview (with himself) for the original production at the McCarter Theatre Center, that the play is not a parody of Chekhov, but that “it takes Chekhov themes and characters and mixes them all up, as if I’ve put them into a comic blender”.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike may make us laugh at the misery of others, but beneath its surface is a wealth of questions about family, responsibility, and regret.

WHATVanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, presented by IU Theatre

WHEN: Oct. 21 – Oct. 29, 2016

WHERE: Wells-Metz Theatre, Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave.

TICKETS: Regular admission is $25 for adults, $15 for students, $20 for senior citizens. 812.855.1103 or http://www.theatre.indiana.edu/. For group discounts contact Abby Miller (millabby@indiana.edu).