“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at ACT

Our state has long had its seagulls and cherry orchards. Now thanks to ACT it has Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” This marvelous mix of the wry, the very funny, and the philosophically charged won numerous awards when it played in Manhattan, and it has lost none of its flair in this Seattle production. R. Hamilton Wright as Vanya, Marianne Owen as Sonia, and Pamela Reed as Masha pull off the humor and the poignancy with √©lan.

VanyaEtc - Full cast and set shot (c) Chris Bennion

Full cast and set
(c) Chris Bennion

Aging siblings, Vanya and Sonia live in a Bucks County country house that could well be a Russian dacha (wonderfully realized by scenic designer Carey Wong). Life is dull but stable, until their sister Masha, a successful actress who actually owns the house, sweeps in with her boy-toy Spike (William Poole) and announces that she’s going to sell the manse. But first they should all go to the neighborhood costume party.

Durang, in this award winning play, cleverly makes these characters who are awash in delusions, self pity or both raucously funny. And to add to the humor there’s Cassandra (Cynthia Jones) the cleaning lady who, like her Greek namesake, has the ability to prophesize.

Director Kurt Beattie knows just how to pull every nuance from a script, and under his fine- tuning his cast does just that. Pamela Reed as hedonistic Masha, fearful of losing her youth struts about the stage with royal demeanor and demands. Marianne Owen is so perfectly needy and nerdy you want to give her a good kick, and R. Hamilton Wright touches our heart with his soulful yearnings and few demands.

Listen carefully so that you can delight in the wit of Durang’s word play. Here there’s an extra measure of pleasure if you have some knowledge of Chekhov and his themes and characters, but you don’t have to know all that to enjoy this play. And to make this confection even more delicious, underneath all the amusements is a thoughtful look at change, a nostalgic longing for life as it was in a quieter, non-electronic age.

Through November 16, ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle, (206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org).

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