News > Review: PURE’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Erin Wilson and R.W. Smith star as Sonia and Vanya

PURE Theatre opens their 12th season with a raucous comedy by playwright Christopher Durang. Durang’s Tony winning Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a winner for a reason (2013 Tony Award for Best Play); it hits so many nails on the head–family conflict, aging vanity, dutiful children vs the ones who leave–as does the PURE production of it, directed by guest director Adam Knight.

Beware the Hootie Pie…

The strength in PURE Theatre’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike lies in the character (flaws) and their evolution/story arc. There is no disputing that PURE regularly presents some of the best theatre a black box has to offer. But the success or misses of each play usually lie in the writing. They’ve got the production and direction down. This particular production is especially successful with a set that facilitates action but does not draw any attention from the characters and their antics…like anything but a bomb could.

R.W. Smith (Vanya), Erin Wilson (Sonia), and Sharon Graci (Masha) are siblings. What do siblings do? Bicker. Poor Sonia is adopted, the dutiful daughter who is ignored and passed over by everyone. Vanya is a closeted man, who clearly longs for more but has resigned himself that it won’t ever happen. Masha, poor dear, is the gorgeous and glamorous movie star, who bears the burden of supporting everyone financially, while sucking the air out of the room. Durang’s writing reveals the back story through the dialogue, and the ensemble pulls it off beautifully, without making it seem superfluous or tedious.

Joy Vandervort-Cobb

Ensemble pieces need their supporting characters, and none is more satisfying than Joy Vandervort-Cobb‘s Cassandra. She is the cleaning lady/prophet, who like her namesake, no one ever believes…until it’s too late.┬áVandervort-Cobb is the surprise star of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and she’s only a surprise because I have been missing out on her amazing antics all these years. My life is a little more complete now. She is expressive, hilarious, and possesses communicative and confident stage presence that only comes with years of performing.

Smith’s Vanya has the most subtle story arc, culminating in a rant of epic proportions. His self-awareness is revealed to Masha and his confidence is drawn out by the neighboring ingenue Nina, played by Andie Boyd; his explosive diatribe is drawn to the forefront of the action by Spike, played by Andrew Halley. Every character in the production has a legitimate purpose in propelling the story’s action forward.

Sisterterhood of the Rivaling Costumes. Sharon Graci and Erin Wilson

Wilson as Sonia grows some hutzpah, which is gratifying to see. No one likes a whiny wallflower. As she begins to assert herself, while also humbling the great Masha, she finds that she can manifest the things she craves so desperately (love) and that makes her both endearing and engaging. Erin Wilson is one of the strongest actresses on the scene these days.

The family that cries together…

Graci delivers a convincing performance of the vapid and self-centered Masha, but reveals her humanity in the second act–after a little dose of humble pie–and it is most gratifying. Her insecurities and her stress are humanizing and understandable when she finally begins to act like a normal person. Graci gives depth to Masha, and provides a massive comedic outlet. You can tell these actors are having fun on stage.

There are several more performances of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and we highly suggest you get yourself to one of them.

words + images: Stacy Huggins

Posted on September 28, 2014 by admin.

Categories: Performing Arts, Review

Tags: Adam Knight, Charleston Theatre, Christopher Durang, Erin Wilson, Joy Vandervort-Cobb, Pure Theatre, R.w. Smth, Sharon Graci, Theater, Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike

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