MCFTA’s Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike Kaleidoscopic Script Turns Chekhov Clouds to Sunshine

Reviewer: Lisa Purchase

Venue: Midland Center for the Arts

As self-proclaimed “wild turkey” Sonia sighs wistfully over the cherry orchard and declares she’s mourning for her life, brother Vanya snaps, “I hope you’re not going to make Chekhov references all day.”

Sorry buddy, it’s hilarious Chekhov references all the way down.

Born under the existential gloom of Chekhov-obsessed professor parents, siblings Vanya and Sonia and Masha bemoan their competitively stagnant lives while musing about the so-called cherry orchard, unrequited love, the fate of the family estate, the feelings of post-apocalyptic molecules in a secret experimental script, and the wide-eyed ingenue (Nina) next door — all references and send-ups of Chekhov’s works. Add to the mix the ominous rantings of Cassandra the housekeeper, a nearly-naked mangenue (Spike) in their morning room, some broken crockery, the curse of Apollo, a voodoo doll, Maggie Smith and Snow White … hit blend, and out comes Christopher Durang’s Tony-award winning hit Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike.

Siblings Vanya and Sonia (adopted) are the poor, forgotten drudges who have wasted their lives working to keep up the family estate. When their glamorous self-centered sister, Masha, drops in to enlist them as her entourage for a costume party, old family resentments flair and everyone is shaken out of their habitual ennui and into open verbal warfare. The housekeeper serves as a ringmaster of doom, while earnest Nina and vacuous Spike bring a breath of fresh air to these crotchety siblings.

This wacky script is cleverly managed by Director Chad William Baker, with the help of an excellent cast and creative team. This densely packed script if rife with literary and theatrical references which could bog a show down in less capable hands, but this show sails engagingly along. 

This production is blessed with a cast of MCFTA veterans and a couple newcomers, all of whom capably and convincingly inhabit their characters. Amy Delaney’s Nina is as sweet and airy as a meringue, perfectly balancing Ashley Potts’ bitter Masha. Bill Anderson Jr.’s Vanya and Trena Winans’ Sonia are the perfect cranky old couple, elevating bickering to an art form with a keen sense of timing. And kudos to newcomers Mickie Logan (Cassandra) and Matthew Lindaur (Spike) for keeping up and complementing this all-star cast. Logan’s poetic rants and Lindaur’s reverse-strip-tease are standout moments in this production.

The first act belongs to the past, as everyone wallows in old habits and roles, and voluntarily writes off their future. In the second act, the previously understated Vanya erupts with a final ode to the past in a cranky old man tirade about the Mickey Mouse Club and postage stamps: “The ’50s were idiotic, but I miss parts of them.” As the air clears from this explosion, the characters begin to inch toward the future and the inevitability of change … thus breaking the Chekhov spell and creating a new ending that Chekhov’s characters never managed to find. While Chekhov framed his characters with heavy clouds throughout, Midland Center for the Arts’ Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike keeps us laughing through the rain and lets the sunshine in by the end.

Cleverly staged in 3/4 round with the audience closely seated around the stage, V&S&M&S has a run time of 2:15, with one intermission.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” runs April 12-14 and April 18-21, Th-Sa at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:00pm. 

Tickets are available at https://www.midlandcenter.org/shows-tickets/

Tickets are $25.50 Adults ($19.50 Students)


Midland Center for the Arts

1801 W. Saint Andrews

Midland, Michigan 48640

Tel. 989.631.8250



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