ARIELLE YODER as Nina (standing), JULIE FISHELL as Masha, CHRISTIAN DALY as Spike, JEFFEY BLAIR CORNELL as Vanya and JULIA GIBSON as  (Photo by Jon Gardiner)

As Christopher Durang points out, Anton Chekhov’s work appears both under and on top of the text of his Tony Award-winning play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. There are numerous parallels, quite beyond the three siblings and their neighbor Nina’s names, to Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, The Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard, and Seagull. At the same time, however, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is quite clearly Durang not Chekhov. 


Where Chekhov gives us a deeply perceptive human comedy, Durang romps through the lives of his characters with a different sensibility. It is a U.S.-based gusto and brio that draws heavily upon contemporary culture both for its laughs and its poignancy. Durang understands Mark Twain’s comment that “the source of all humor is sorrow” and carefully roots the ridiculous aspects and actions of his characters in a deep comprehension of the Dark Night of Their Souls. Durang also understands Chekhov’s statement, “men dine, they just dine—and in that moment lives collapse, and worlds are destroyed,” with its profound insight that the truly important events in our lives happen without our noticing them. We live them, we don’t comment upon them.  It is only years later, perhaps lying on the analyst’s couch, that we begin to comprehend the confluence of our own actions, attitudes, and emotions that created those moments and their repercussions.  

JEFFREY BLAIR CORNELL as Vanya and ARIELLE YODER as Nina. (Photo by Jon Gardiner)
What Durang creates in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a contemporary, funny, dysfunctional family with–like all families–its own particular rhythm.  In the process the play investigates what it is to be human, what it is to be in a relationship, what it is to be in a family, what it is to have meaning in your life.  Perhaps the most fulfilled life is the one in which a person is capable of stopping: sitting and watching the elegance and stillness of Durang’s blue heron perched majestically on one long leg as it surveys the pond and searches for its next meal.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike will be performed at PlayMakers September 17, 2014 – October 5, 2014. For tickets, call 919.962.PLAY (7529) or visit our website.