By Jeffery Silvey
When the lights come up on the Horizon Theatre’s production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, we first see an empty morning room that overlooks a lake. The room is adorned and accessorized with various items and tchotchkes, including books, pictures, and the Game of Life board game. The entirety of the play takes place around the stagnant board game and appropriately so. After all, that’s what this play is about: Life.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike won Christopher Durant, the playwright, the Tony Award for Best Play. He created a modern comedy by creating homage to the legendary playwright Anton Chekhov. He took plot elements from different Chekhov plays and even three of the four titular character names and blended them all into one unique and hilarious story.
The play, much like Chekhov’s Three Sisters, focuses on the lives of three siblings: brother and sister Vanya and Masha, and their adopted sister Sonia. While Masha has been traveling the world as a successful actress, Vanya and Sonia have remained at their childhood home taking care of their parents. Now that they’re all approaching the middle years of their lives, it seems that no one is sure of himself or herself anymore. Once they all come together they are able to find new meaning and inspiration, not only for each other, but also for themselves.
Tess Kincaid, an Atlanta based actress who plays the role of movie star Masha, says that the play focuses on the idea of “going home to find yourself again.” Even though Vanya and Sonia are already at their “homes,” the play reiterates that home doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical place, but it can be a place or time where people are joined together. “Once they’re all back together they have a real sense of home,” says Kincaid. While the story of these three siblings coming back together to figure out their lives is a great one, it is even better thanks to the humor of the play. “The humor is delightful,” says Kincaid, “and the fact that it is accessible to anyone whether they know Chekhov or not is great fun!”
That accessibility is something that the Horizon Theatre and their crew have worked on to great effect. While the set design of the play evokes architecture and accessory references to Chekhov’s work, as well as several lines of the dialogue, the play goes so much further than that. Pop culture is referenced a lot, with Snow White, Carly Rae Jepsen, Maggie Smith, iPods, and voodoo all being parts of the show. The play is written in a way to provide an inside joke to each audience member, and the way the cast members handle each joke makes you feel like you’re in on it all. Under Justin Anderson’s direction, this cast shines with each of their punchlines and their effortless and entertaining humor.