There’s always something entertaining about watching men and women of a certain age fight. I don’t know, but there’s a certain appeal to seeing people finally unleash their pent-up frustrations and experience a spectacular breakdown. Repertory Philippines’ Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is exactly that, except the breakdowns are done with class and wit, portrayed excellently by Michael Williams, Roselyn Perez, Cherie Gil, and Joaquin Valdes.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a smart comedy of manners that revolves around the relationships between middle-aged siblings Vanya, Sonia, and Masha. The three are named after Anton Chekov characters (their parents are theater-loving professors), and suffer in almost the same way as the characters they are named after. Don’t worry, you don’t need to have read any Chekov to enjoy this comedy!
Vanya and Sonia are two jobless siblings living in their childhood home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. They lead quite mundane lives, with Sonia insisting she make coffee for Vanya every morning. On the other hand, Vanya spends his days reading. Their humdrum days are shaken by the arrival of their sister Masha, a glamorous actress with captivating escapades. She tags along Spike, her young sexy boyfriend. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, breakdowns ensue when they reexamine their lives, relationships, and dug-up grudges. Their follies are accompanied by the prophetic housekeeper Cassandra and the gorgeous neighbor Nina.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was written by Christopher Durang, and premiered on Broadway in 2013 to critical and commercial success. On Broadway, the show kept being moved to bigger theaters to accommodate the expanding audience. It won Best Play at the Tony Awards and Outstanding Play at the Drama Desk Awards in 2013.
The story unfolds beautifully, and the script is written so casually that it almost feels like eavesdropping on real-life conversations. The play is comforting and relatable because it’s so… normal? Despite the characters’ ages, their sentiments are similar to those of millennials: a lack of direction, dependence, and feelings of inferiority and insecurity. Durang captures human emotions and presents it on stage, as if he is holding up a mirror to the audience.
Repertory Philippines opens their 50th anniversary with this biting comedy. Bart Guingona directs the play with aplomb, allowing each actor to have his moment. Williams plays a breathtaking Vanya, culminating in a six-page monologue that he delivers in a frenetic yet vulnerable pace. Perez is a sympathetic Sonia, and she touched my heart when she had her moment of triumph. As expected, Gil impressed as Masha, breezily going through the role of a crumbling diva. I also enjoyed Valdes’s performance as Spike, an innocent yet lovable hunk. Supporting the four are Naths Everett as the prophetic housekeeper Cassandra, who made us laugh with her erratic visions, and Mica Pineda as the gentle neighbor Nina.
Like any Repertory Philippines production, the set was a thing of beauty. Set designer Miguel Faustman produced a warm and inviting house, complete with trees that add a sense of isolation to the place. The sunrise was breathtaking, which isn’t really a surprise considering John Batalla designed the lights.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a mouthful to say, but the play is an oddly compelling watch. It’s a look into the future if we allow ourselves to be conquered by our insecurities or if we let ourselves go unchecked. If only we could be as elegant as the three siblings.
Repertory Philippines Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike will be staged at Onstage Theater, at the 2nd Floort, Greenbelt 1, Paseo de Roxas corner Legazpi Street Makati City, from January 20 to February 12. For inquiries, you may call Rep at 843-3570, and Ticketworld at 891-9999 or log on to www.ticketworld.com.ph. For updates and show schedules, log on to www.repertoryphilippines.ph. You may also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.