- Photo by Jim Cox
You need not be well-versed in the work of the venerable Anton Chekhov to appreciate Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Even if you don’t know a cherry orchard from a neighborhood playground, you’ll enjoy the madcap antics of Durang’s delightfully dysfunctional characters.
It’s by and large over-the-top comedy, with sight gags and shameless Chekhov allusions to spare. But it’s easy to see why this show, now on stage at The Old Globe Theatre, directed by Jessica Stone, was a Tony winner on Broadway. Besides, there’s just enough heart in the script—especially in the case of wallflower Sonia (Marcia DeBonis)—to ensure that the broadly behaving characters are well-rounded ones. Well, maybe not Spike (Tyler Lansing Weaks), who’s supposed to be shallow, but what he does during a striptease with the belt of his trousers makes up for his shallowness.
The story finds a brother and adopted sister, Vanya (Martin Moran) and Sonia, living contentedly (though they bicker a lot) in the peaceful Bucks County, Pennsylvania, home owned by their sister Masha (Candy Buckley), who’s an extremely neurotic actress—and can she ever emote. When Masha and her boy toy, Spike, show up, the tirades and recriminations and verbal barbs (all played for laughs) get ramped up and all peacefulness is gone. Whether Masha will sell the house that’s been her siblings’ only home is a key plot point, but it’s not really what the play is about. It sounds corny, but it’s ultimately about family.
Stone directs these four (along with Haneefah Wood, who has a blast overplaying the future-forecasting cleaning woman, Cassandra, and Allison Layman) with a deft hand. Even at the play’s most outrageous moments—and there are many of them—VSM&S never degenerates into slapstick. Buckley just about rules the stage as Masha, as she should, and DeBonis brings keen sympathy to Sonia’s lot in life. And Moran’s Act 2 appreciation for the simpler time that was the ’50s is breathless.
It all unfolds on a sumptuous set by David Korins. The house and environs are the kind you wouldn’t mind settling into yourself. Minus the family chaos. Or maybe you’d like the family chaos because it reminds you of your own family.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike runs through June 22 at The Old Globe. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
—David L. Coddon
Dog and Pony: In this world-premiere musical comedy, things get complicated for a team of screenwriters when one gets a divorce and the other realizes she wants something more than a professional partnership. Opens May 28 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Faded Glory: A world-premiere comedy based on a real-life Congress member and Civil War general who nearly lost the war for the Union forces. Opens in previews on May 28 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Milvotchkee, Visconsin: Billed as “a comedy about a tragedy,” it’s about a woman who works as a park docent in Wisconsin and is suffering from dementia. Presented by Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company, it opens May 29 at the 10th Avenue Arts Center in East Village. moolelo.net
The Miss Firecracker Contest: A 24-year-old Mississippi woman seeks to shed her reputation for promiscuity by entering and, hopefully, winning the titular competition. Opens in previews on May 30 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
My Son the Waiter, a Jewish Tragedy!: A one-man show written and performed by Brad Zimmerman, who went to New York to try to make it as an actor and then waited tables for nearly 30 years. Opens May 28 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. lyceumevents.org
The Sunshine Boys: CBS asks a retired Vaudeville duo—who split after a year’s worth of not speaking to each other off the stage—to reunite for a TV special. Opens May 31 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Lost in Yonkers: It’s the 1940s, and a man causes upheaval in his extended family when he decides he needs to make money as a traveling salesman. Presented by Oceanside Theatre Company, it runs through June 1 at Brooks Theatre. oceansidetheatre.org
9 to 5: the Musical: An adaptation of the 1980 film, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, about three women who scheme to get even with their boorish boss. Through June 7 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.com
There’s No Place Like Home: A world-premiere musical about a young disabled woman who has to learn to cope with homelessness. Presented by Circle Circle dot dot, it runs through June 7 at Ocean Beach Playhouse. circle2dot2.com
The Book of Mormon: In the acclaimed musical by the creators of South Park, two Mormon missionaries are sent to Uganda to convert the locals, who are not the slightest bit interested in being converted. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs through June 8 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com
The Clean House: The story of a woman, her maid who doesn’t like cleaning houses and her husband who falls in love with another woman who’s dying of cancer. Through June 8 at PowPAC in Poway. powpac.org
Happy Days: Sledgehammer theater company returns from six years in hibernation to stage Samuel Beckett’s play with two characters, one who spends eternity partially buried in dirt and one who lives in a cave to escape unforgiving heat. Through June 8 at the 10th Avenue Arts Center in East Village. sledgehammer.org
Mud Blue Sky: A teenage pot dealer on his way home from the prom ends up in a Chicago hotel room with three veteran flight attendants in this funny drama about making ends meet. Through June 8 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com
Chasing the Song: A young, female songwriter hits the male-dominated American pop-music scene in the early 1960s just as the British Invasion is starting to change everything. Through June 15 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
The Motherf**ker with the Hat: A former drug dealer fresh out of prison is back with his addict girlfriend and desperate to know whom the man’s hat in her apartment belongs to. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through June 22 at Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike: A successful actress returns home to Pennsylvania, where her siblings have spent much of their adult lives caring for their now-deceased parents, and she’s brought her dumb, much younger boyfriend with her. Through June 22 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Twelfth Night: In Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, much love is professed and identities are mistaken after a shipwreck on the Adriatic coast. Through June 29 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net