After a sold out run off-Broadway last fall, Christopher Durang's new comedy, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" has opened on Broadway. Time Out New York's David Cote filed the following review for NY1.
Back in November, when I reviewed "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" off-Broadway, I must have been in a Russian funk. Christopher Durang’s bittersweet comedy about depressive siblings struck me as a trivial sketch.
Well, now, I must be off my meds, or on them. I was delighted to spend another weekend in the country with these sad sacks, whose trials in life and love are unexpectedly touching.
Nothing has changed about Nicholas Martin’s attractive and spryly acted production, except that now it occupies the cozy confines of the John Golden Theatre. Durang’s bitchy, gleaming one liners land harder with a bigger crowd.
Vanya and Sonia, as you can guess from the cheeky title, is a riff on Chekhovian motifs. Its characters are American, but three of them were named after Chekhov characters by parents who were community theater enthusiasts.
Durang’s trademark surreal humor, call it Neil Simon meets Eugene Ionesco, is in fine shape. And the script, especially on a second hearing, seems a froth of high-concept whimsy atop a deep layer of regretful nostalgia.
This sobering side comes across strongly in second-act monologues by the spinsterish, dithering Sonia, played to bug-eyed perfection by Kristine Nielsen, and a rant for the good old days by Vanya, the impeccably dry David Hyde Pierce.
All the performances have become more textured and less facile, especially Sigourney Weaver as Masha, their incredibly vain and needy movie-star sister. Younger supporting characters - Billy Magnussen as Masha’s millennial boy-toy; Shalita Grant as a clairvoyant cleaning lady; and Genevieve Angelson as a starstruck girl next door - add to the daffy, pastoral pleasures.
We get too few comedies on Broadway, much less ones with the breezy wit and satirical bite of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike". Like the play’s lonely, bitter characters, I’m so happy that I can stop complaining.