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Comic absurdism in ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’


Spring has arrived and along with it, the latest Owosso Community Players big musical, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” written by famous Russian novelist Anton Chekov Wait. This is not a musical, nor is it written by Chekov? It’s a seriocomic drama written by the absurdist Christopher Durang?

Yep. Owosso is surprising its core audience with a poignant reflective tale about aging and the roads not traveled.

Doak Bloss, as Vanya, opens up the play shuffling on to the stage out to an enclosed veranda overlooking a large pond. He is clutching a coffee cup in two hands, seemingly enjoying the silence of a quiet morning. He is soon joined by Anna Owens in the role of his sister Sonia, carrying a second cup of coffee she has made especially for Vanya.

We quickly discover that this is not going to be an “On Golden Pond” moment. As reverie turns to conflict, Sonia is seriously disturbed that Vanya has violated the ritual of who makes the morning coffee. Escalation ensues as Vanya analyzes the tastes of two different cups of coffee, and Sonia responds by hurling both cups across the room. Who are these people?

Thus the play unfolds with Sonia bemoaning lives not lived, paths not taken and the twilight of their years. She and Vanya have spent much of their adult lifetimes attending to their aging parents, both of whom were afflicted with dementia. The siblings perceive themselves as not so beautiful losers.

The plot thickens as we discover there is a third sibling. The much younger Masha is a world traveling actress of stage and screen, and pays the mortgage on the ancestral home in which Vanya and Sonia live for free, albeit in a state of bored existential despair.

She arrives on the scene with a chirpy theatrical flair and narcissistic aplomb, her young lover Spike in tow. Ruppert glides effortlessly across the stage pontificating on the joyful life of theater while Vanya and Sonia take turns standing and sitting and demonstrating the sluggish aspects of their seemingly pathetic lives.

Each of these three siblings are portrayed distinctly by the three actors; Bloss, in particular, brings a subtly nuanced observational quality to his role as Vanya, who takes it all in, absorbing events in a long-suffering manner. Vanya has aged beyond his chronological years. Encountering the lithe, slender and insufferable Spike, Vanya finds himself longing for a past in which he was young and gay and proud.

Masha is invited to a costume party, in which she will attend as Snow White. She directs her siblings to be two of the seven dwarfs. Sonia rebels, surprises everyone, showing up, looking like Cinderella in a dazingly elegant sequined gown, effecting an English accent.

Sonia is transformed, resulting in a phone call and a subsequent dinner date. Her long years of emptiness appear to be over.

Vanya, meanwhile, decides to mentor the young neighbor Nina who aspires to be an actress. This prompts him to drag out a long- forgotten script, in which Nina gets to be …a molecule. Spike ignores this play-acting scene, fooling with his phone, giving Bloss, as Vanya, the opportunity to engage in the longest rant soliloquy in the history of theater.

It would be remiss not to comment on the featured comic role of Cassandra, who comes and goes on stage as the gypsy psychic housecleaner, whose stage movements and dramatic persona are worthy of a spinoff play entirely about her.

One wonders if Durang was imagining in this play, his own post-theatrical descent into an empty and meaningless life. Vanya et al, alerts us all to attend to ourselves as well as others, to embrace and celebrate life, one day at a time. Carpe Diem.

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”

Friday, April 27, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 28, 8 p.m. Sunday, April 29, 3 p.m. $11.50 children, $16.50 senior, $18.50 adult Owosso Community Players 114 E. Main St., Owosso www.owossoplayers.com


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