Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike ★★★★★ Charing Cross Theatre | Nov 5, 2021 - Jan 8, 2022


Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike could be mistaken for a parody, but it is actually a comic homage to the master playwright. Christopher Durang has captured the Chekhovian sensibility while creating a humourous, contemporary play which addresses gay inclusion, climate change and social injustice. We have characters named for Chekov protagonists, and the familiar Russian themes of ennui, despair and existential fretting are all there. But, this is also a work with some very smart, amusing dialogue and which is littered with Chekhovian in-jokes and plenty of other literary and cinematic references. However, the real humour comes from the characters' simultaneous self-awareness and inability to use this knowledge as a vehicle for growth or change. They are knowing and articulate while also being self-absorbed and trapped. Janie Dee is terrific as the successful actress, Masha, who supports her siblings financially but emotionally cannot reach beyond her own narcissism. Michael Maloney is excellent as the diffident Vanya whose fit of rage is quite splendid. Rebecca Lacey as sharp, yet despairing Sonia had us laughing aloud Her Maggie Smith imitation is simply brilliant. Sara Powell's prophetic, classics-quoting Cassandra is equally hilarious. Walter Bobbie has done a fine job of direction: the actors walk the narrow line between caricature and characterisation that ensures all the fun is extracted from the play. While the first act left us wondering where we might be going, the second provides some of those Chekhovian half-resolutions that leave things on just the right note – unresolved, ambiguous optimism.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Marc Brenner.

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