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Silly, Sophisticated Humor Fills TheaterWorks Stage

By Elizabeth Young, The Newtown Bee


Theatreworks New Milford is offering the silly, sophisticated humor of Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike for its summer fare.

Jocelyn Beard has directed this droll comedy to showcase the extraordinarily talented cast with which she has been blessed. The slowly paced, languid comedy, which is loosely based on several Chekov plays, is made vivid and funny by its cast, which seems to convey a quizzical interest in the meaning and characters of this play. They are all superb.

Vanya (played by David Fritsch) and one of his sisters, Sonia (Lana Peck), have been living in the country home of their departed parents, having little interaction with the world outside their rural home. They languish and whine away the years, experiencing little of life and communicating only with their prophesying housekeeper, Cassandra (Sumiah Gay). Life is punctuated by shattering coffee mugs but otherwise mundane.

Third sibling, sister Masha (Ali Bernhardt), appears at the Bucks County home in which Vanya and Sonia reside. She is a movie star and serial bride who pays for the home and its upkeep.

She brings along her young stud of a boyfriend, Spike (Nick Raines), as they are due to attend a costume party in the area.

Masha toys with the relatives and tortures Spike. He, in turn, flirts with pretty, young neighbor, Nina (Maya Jennings-Daley), who develops a fondness for Vanya.

Everyone is invited to the costume party, some in service to Masha’s Snow White. Vanya is expected to dress like a dwarf, as is Nina, who does so willingly. Spike serves as the handsome prince.

Sonia has decided to attend looking and sounding like Maggie Smith. She steals the costume party show out from under Masha, leaving her incensed. Threats fly, arguments erupt, and Sonia’s life may be forever altered by her attendance at the party.

This slice of family life is loosely influenced by Chekov, particularly the characters’ names and the cherry orchard reference, yet audiences need not be familiar with the works of the Russian playwright in order to embrace this production. The cast puts on a very entertaining performance for all theatregoers.

Lana Peck as Sonia is outstanding. She is depressed, yet demanding and assertive. Ms Peck is a wonderful comic actor who captures the dry and sarcastic wit of her character.

Playing her devoted yet evasive brother, David Fritsch is terrific. He delivers a rambling monologue on change and loads of other thoughts adeptly demonstrating the condition of flight of ideas. These actors play off each other very well.

The soothsaying, spell-casting house maid is hilarious in the hands of Sumiah Gay. Her Cassandra is positively gleeful as she toys with her employers, demonstrating her character’s superior wit.

The self-centered Masha is high-spirited as portrayed by the glamorous Ali Bernhardt, who brings a huge energy on stage and maintains it throughout.

Spike is solidly played by Nick Raines, who has mastered a substantial physical stage presence. As ingenue Nina, Maya Jennings Daily is precious as her character exudes awe of the three siblings.

This is a play that entertains with its smart, subtle humor. Director Jocelyn Beard has done a lovely job with her fine cast, and set designer Shagbargh Scenic has created an authentic country domicile. The departed professor parents of the three sibs remain an eerie presence by way of the theater relics and offspring whose names and circumstances harken back to the Russian master.

This production offers wonderful performances that are engaging and expertly drawn. Don’t miss an evening in the cherry orchard.

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