Vanya and Sonia meet Masha and Spike
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre plays Chekhovian drama as comedy
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre opens its season with the pleasantly bizarre comedy, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Written by Christopher Durang, the script whimsically plays heavy family drama like a light sitcom—it’s Anton Chekhov by way of Neil Simon. At times the fusion works. At times it’s tedious. Thankfully, the cast—directed by Marcella Kearns—has a strong enough presence onstage to keep it all appealing, even when Durang’s weird experiment stumbles into intermittent banality.
The play opens as C. Michael Wright and Jenny Wanasek play an unemployed Chekhovian brother and sister sharing a moment in the morning. The two seasoned actors are charming as a couple of people who know each other far too well from decades of living together in solitude. Things slowly unravel between them until Rana Roman arrives to add an inspired element of psychosis as the maid, Cassandra. Roman is powerfully charismatic as a woman with vague wisps of precognition piercing through substantial wit.
Conflict enters the picture as Carrie Hitchcock arrives in the role of Masha, a fading Hollywood action film star, accompanied by her boyfriend—a young, vapid, athletic wannabe Hollywood actor played by JJ Phillips. Masha’s finances are faltering, and she’s thinking of selling the old house that her brother and sister call home. Elodie Senetra makes a sweetly charming impression as Nina, a young, aspiring actress of irrepressible energy who is star-struck by Masha. She and the rest of the ensemble tumble about in Durang’s bizarrely paced Chekhov parody that manages to somehow bring substantial drama into an evening of light comedy.
Through Aug. 28 at the Cabot Theatre on 158 N. Broadway. For tickets, call 414-291-7800 or visit milwaukeechambertheatre.com.