Theater Review: VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE (Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa)

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by Milo Shapiro on September 2, 2023

in Theater-Regional,Theater-San Diego


Any time you take one sibling out of a group of three, the remaining two are bound to talk about the missing one. Take that situation further, with two of them living together and the third being a egomaniac who just pops in occasionally — it’s an extreme situation with the opportunity to be delightfully entertaining. It’s goofy from start to finish in all the right ways. Lamplighters got this one just right with so many good laughs from sharp writing and gleeful performances.

Vanya (Anthony Zelig) with his adopted sister Sonia (Rhiannon McAfee) took care of their aging and, later, Alzheimer’s stricken parents until they died. Having given so many of their best years to caretaking, they don’t know quite what to do with the rest of their lives and live almost like a couple, doing little in the old family home. By contrast, their sister Masha (Melanie Mino), who started out trying to be a serious actress, has become a star in a series of pop movies. While not fine films, they have left her famous and well-off. Masha has paid for all the health care and house bills in return for the other two doing the work. As a busy and fussy actress, she’s rarely home; upon her impending arrival, there’s stress o-plenty.

Adding to the usual trial of high-strung Masha coming home is her surprise guest. After five husbands, her new boyfriend Spike (Cody Dupree) is handsome, fit, self-absorbed … and half her age. Spike seems utterly unfazed by the age difference, almost unable to keep his hands off her (surely the reason for intimacy coach Kandace Chrystal). But are his interests just in her fame and beauty? His behavior starts to make Masha wonder once the four come together, especially with the addition of antics by their outspoken psychic housekeeper Cassandra (Sara Chan) and a naïve, starstruck neighbor (Heather Warren).

Initially, playwright Christopher Durang’s script is a little heavy-handed as he uses conversation between Vanya and Masha to outline the history of the three siblings, all named for Chekhov characters by their highly-literate theatrical parents. Once he gets past that scene, though, the writing is tight, with biting barbs, delicious plot twists, and great room for vamping – clearly in which directors Eddy Lukovic and Tyler Richard Hewes take great delight. Act I goes to Mr. Dupree, who is given tremendous latitude in flexing, posing, and overacting to no one’s disappointment. Spike’s near repulsion for keeping clothing on was quite the talk of both the other characters and a number of ladies in the lobby at intermission (the latter group far less bothered by it than the former).

Act II really gives the rest of the actors a chance to shine, though, with terrific over-the-top melodrama from Masha, a lovely one-sided phone call scene for sweet-but-lonely Sonia, and other silliness for all. Mr. Zelig is given a tough monologue, with which he does very well, but it’s just far too long; Mr. Durang could have cut it by a third and it would have been more powerful. But that’s a small issue in such an excellent comedy.

photos by Ken Jacques

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Lamplighters Community Theatre, 5915 Severin Drive
Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 2
ends on Sept. 17, 2023
for tickets, call 619.303.5092​ or visit Lamplighters
opening Oct. 13: Ira Levin’s thriller Deathtrap

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