Adult children taking care of their parents is a growing phenomenon, with the AARP estimating that over 22 million households care for a family member over fifty. So, it’s easy to imagine that audience members could relate to playwright Christopher Durang’s 2013 Broadway hit, in which he speculates what happens to the children after their parents pass and the children had put their own lives on hold for decades.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, at Theater at the Fort, follows the unfortunately named siblings Vanya, Sonia, and Masha (victims of community-theater parents with a particular love of Chekhov—audience members with a similar interest will pick up on other Chekhovian nods as well). Masha, portrayed by Nan Macy, escaped the family home by becoming something of a movie star through a series of slasher flicks. Vanya, Jim LaMonte, and Sonia, Kathy Pataluch, stayed home to care for their aging parents. Now that their parents have passed and the siblings are in their 50s, Vanya and Sonia are left reflecting on the melancholia of a life never lived. When Masha shows up unexpectedly, she, too, exhibits an unspoken fear for her future as an aging actress, manifested by the boy toy named Spike (Rahshe Byrd) she brings to the house with her. Complementing the titular characters are Jenni White as Cassandra, the gypsy housekeeper, and Megan Nicole Smith as Nina, a young woman (probably in her late teens) visiting next door who aspires to be an actress and idolizes Masha.
LaMonte and Pataluch’s characters are the highlights in the cast, with the most depth and definition. LaMonte’s quiet, acquiescing portrayal of Vanya captures his acceptance of his lost potential. Pataluch’s dotty Sonia is more vocal, begrudging her role as the forgotten adopted sister. The two have wonderful interactions, and both get opportunities to really shine in the second half. Pataluch especially gets to show off her acting finesse when she takes on an alter ego.
Macy conveys the insecurity behind her exaggerated, plastered-on smile. Masha knows her lifestyle is tottering on the edge, and Macy uses body language and voice inflection in her intentional disregard of others and incessant hold on Spike. Byrd’s role is primarily that of eye candy, which he delivers in spades.
Smith is extremely sweet as Nina, and White is hilarious as Cassandra. White often takes over a scene with her dominating presence and acerbic commentary. Director Jeremy Tuterow utilizes these actors’ strengths as much as the main cast’s, and costuming (love Sonia’s costume-party outfit!) and sets are equally charming.