By Joe Szekeres
To see a play more than once allows audiences to develop a keen insight into the artistic vision and picture the production team wishes to create. I am certainly looking forward to seeing Christopher Durang’s ‘Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike’ which opens March 2, 2018 at the Scarborough Village Theatre on Kingston Road, in Scarborough. I had the opportunity last winter to visit these characters of Mr. Durang’s quirky comedy in Port Perry, and I am anticipating the Scarborough Players will delve readily head first into this strangely peculiar, comic and, often, sad world of misfits.
Mr. Durang borrows the character names from some of Anton Chekhov’s works; rest assured, it isn’t necessary to read the Russian’s plays for audience enjoyment of ‘Vanya’.
“Vanya is a well-written play of wonderful characters who are all impacted by the disruption caused by the arrival of the fabulous Masha and her boy-toy, Spike.” director Katherine Turner tells me in a recent discussion. “The comedy and humour are driven by interesting characters in unexpected situations with wonderful writing – so they say hilarious things. Combine timing with specific physical choices and the audience will be on the edge of their seats to listen intently, so they don’t miss anything.”
Several well known professional performers (David Hyde Pierce, Sigourney Weaver) were in the original Broadway production. I have spoken with some non-professional actors locally who hope to add ‘Vanya’ to their resumes for the interesting characters and distinctive dialogue. So, why the appeal of this play for Ms. Turner?
She is extremely proud of her ‘to die for’ cast and her talented artistic team of many volunteers of designers and back stage assistants, headed by producer Kerrie Lamb and stage manager Angelique Marius. During rehearsals, the collaborative conversation of all stakeholders of this ‘bucket list’ play is comparable to champagne bubbles rising with the cork popping. The comedy of ‘Vanya’ demands timing which needs great craft and a fine-tuned ear to lift the energy of the story and the dialogue.
For Ms. Turner, she trusts that audiences will identify with many of the characters who have become stuck. It takes an unexpected arrival into the mundane world of Vanya and Sonia, a disruption of a costume party, the cleaning lady and a new neighbour to have everyone make different choices so they can see each other anew. Durang explores some of the following themes in his work – the fear of growing older, the regret for the choices we have made, the fear of change in a rapidly changing world with the hope for some joy, and perhaps a Spike. (You’ll understand that last reference when you see the play).
Ms. Turner’s theatrical resume is impressive. She holds a double major in History and Theatre from the University of British Columbia and has been actively involved in community theatre in Toronto for over thirty years. ‘Vanya’ marks her 27th show with this privilege as director. Producer Kerrie Lamb has performed in community theatre since 2002 and has won a Thea as Best Actress for her work in ‘The Winslow Boy’. ‘Vanya’ marks her first foray into producing.
The cast includes Chip Thompson (Vanya), Deborah Jarvis (Sonia), Martha Breen (Masha), Holm Bradwell (Spike), Carolyn Williamson (Cassandra) and Robyn Deverett (Nina). Ms. Turner sings the praises of her experienced actors with diverse resumes. She calls them gracious and generous individuals who listen attentively, who are prepared to risk and take chances. What more could any community theatre director ask for?
‘Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike’ premieres March 2, 2018 at 8 pm. Performances continue March 3, 8-10 inclusive, March 15 and 16, 2018 at 8 pm. Matinees at 2 pm will be held March 4, 11 and 17, 2018. All performances take place in the Scarborough Village Theatre, 3600 Kingston Road, Scarborough. Tickets may be purchased at the box office before each performance or call (416) 267-9292. For further information and to purchase tickets online, visit their website.