“It’s so well-written,” says director Bart Guingona in explaining why they chose Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as Rep’s 50th season opener. Apart from its artistic merits (it won Best Play in the 2013 Tony Awards), he and the cast led by Michael Williams, Rosalyn Perez, and Cherie Gil have a deep connection with the story and the characters. In a nutshell, “it’s all about middle-aged people dealing with a world where youth is always a premium. They feel lost in this new world and they’re trying to fit in,” continues Guingona.
A summary from Rep:
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike tells the story of three siblings, named after Anton Chekhov characters by their academic parents, and who are all living their namesakes’ unhappiness. Vanya (Williams) and Sonia (Perez) have never left the confines of their childhood home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Bitterly they complain about their uneventful lives, lost dreams and missed opportunities while they witness the glamorous escapades of their more successful movie star sister, Masha (Gil).
As the siblings’ fortune-telling maid, Cassandra (Naths Everett) starts prophesying impending dangers, Masha arrives to visit one weekend with her new sexy boy toy, Spike (Joaquin Valdes). The normally quiet household is thrown into one rollicking weekend full of lust, rivalry, regret, and the possibility of escape.
“Masha comes home with a young boyfriend and there you’ll find out what she’s going through, being in denial about aging and life’s demands… It’s like I’m also playing my own personal journey. I am undergoing midlife crisis and it’s great to be able to play around that truth and laugh at it,” shares Gil, stressing that this theatrical experience helps her come to terms with midlife.
“It may be a comedy but it has Chekhov undertones, so you’ve got this melancholy pull at the heart,” remarks Perez, who finds joy in taking on the role of the spinster Sonia. “She’s in love with Vanya,” she adds, “because she’s an adopted sister. She’s unsure of herself, full of regrets. Her parents had Alzheimer’s and she had to take care of them, so that’s been her life.”
Vanya, on the other hand, is the observer. “He’s a guy that feels so much about everything but keeps it in. He’s stuck in his ways and he’s just trying to hold it down until he can’t anymore and explodes in a four-page monologue,” jokes Williams.
As for the last titular character, Spike, Valdes describes him as the antithesis of the three siblings. “He’s a millennial with short attention span and is full of himself. His dream job is to be part of Jersey Shore or Entourage. He messes up the dynamics within Vanya and Sonia and Masha’s house. And for a good part of the show, he’s practically naked,” reveals the young actor.
“Durang is obviously a Chekhov fan,” notes Guingona. “Chekhov sought to redefine drama during his time, when everything was Shakesperean and operatic. He went the other way, showing that there’s drama with people sitting down, talking, doing everyday things. It was so modern then.” Then comes Durang, who, according to Guingona, pushes the envelope further by setting this brand of storytelling in the now.
The director guarantees that you neither need to be a Chekhov reader or in your fifties to enjoy this offering. He ends: “The situation and language are contemporary. And it has this nostalgic thing where you suddenly realize your parents may not be so bad after all. But the simplest reason to come see it is that it’s really entertaining.”
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Rep’s production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike will run from January 20 to February 12 at the OnStage Theater in Greenbelt 1, Makati City. For tickets and inquiries, call Rep at 843-3570 or Ticketworld at 891.999, or log on to ticketworld.com.ph. For updates and show schedules, log on to repertoryphilippines.ph and follow @repertoryphilippines on Facebook and Instagram, and @repphils on Twitter.