VANYA AND SONYA AND MASHA AND SPIKE
PlayMakers Repertory Company @ Paul Green Theatre
150 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill
Through Oct. 5
According to American Theatre, this is the second year running that Christopher Durang’s VANYA AND SONYA AND MASHA AND SPIKE will be the most frequently produced non-Shakespearean, non-holiday script in the U.S. The 2013 Broadway production took the Tony, Drama Desk and Critics’ Circle awards for best play.
It’s an amusing enough theatrical riff on the characters and family structures from the plays of Chekhov, skewering the banal side of depression and the self-interested vapidity of showbiz types.
But it jumps the shark when Jeffrey Blair Cornell’s previously winsome Vanya literally mounts a soapboxwell, a coffee tablein the second act to deliver a five-minute harangue about the disintegration of common culture at the hands of far too familiar suspects: the Internet, popular entertainment, niche news programming, the cell phone and kids these days. Before he was done, I wished they and I could all just get off his damned lawn already.
Julia Gibson aches as the loveless Sonya, while Julie Fishell romps as vain film star Masha. Kathryn Hunter Williams enlivens walking plot device Cassandra before a disappointingly paint-by-numbers happy ending. Many of us have endured someone texting during a performance, but this script makes me glad I didn’t write a play about it.
This article appeared in print with the headline “Protest too much.”