Delights its Audience
By  Iride Aparicio

Photos by: Richard Mayer

The Cast of  Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

PALO ALTO, CA –  To review VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE, by what  its audience said about it, we have to call the play "delightful"

Written by American playwright CHRISTOPHER DURANG,  known for  his outrageous and often absurd comedies, this one is funny, but it has a serious Premise (message), substantial enough to make the audience ponder what, in their lives, is important.

Presented by PALO ALTO PLAYERS, the Peninsula’s first theatre company, as part of its 2015-1016  Season,  VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE, the  Winner of the 2013 Tony Award® for “Best Play,” the Palo Alto production is tops. It has an excellent cast  of actors and they are masterfully directed by LINDA PICCONE.

The style of the work may be described as  “Chekhovian.” Its plot is based on a family, the set is the family house, and three of its characters: Vanya, Sonia and Masha are named after the characters in different  plays written by ANTON CHECKHOV  (1860-l904)  the famous Russian Playwright.  DURANG’s  comedy also unashamedly uses a well-known line from to the Russian playwright's play: “I want to go to Moscow, ” from "The Three Sisters," Mentions "The cherry’s  orchard" but this time talking about the orchard in Masha's family, and calls Vanya, “Uncle Vanya” which is the title of another CHECKHOV's play.

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    L-R Vanya  (WALTER M. MAYES)  and Sonia (PATRICIA TYLER)

The comedy starts with Brother Vanya (MAYES) still wearing his night gown, reading a book and Sonia, (TYLER)  entering the room located in the back of the house, overlooking the pond. When Vanya complains that his coffee is getting cold, and Sonia offers him her cup, he takes it but complains again because her cup is not like hiscup. Disgusted, Sonia takes her cup and smashes it on the floor. 

Obviously, the woman is highly frustrated, an we learn that her frustration is caused the fact that she was adopted into the family, that she is now 62 and never dated, that Masha her “sister” is a famous stage, film and television actress, who has married five times and has spent her life traveling while Sonia spent her life taking care of her sick adopted parents.

The atmosphere of boredom changes suddenly with the entrance of Cassandra (DAMARIS DIVITO)  (picture below) their house keeper, who like the mythological Trojan princess (the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, who was given by Apollo the gift of prophecy) can foretell the future. An this Cassandra announces to Sonia and Vanya that things will change, and with a series of  “magical” hand movements, expressive eyes and overall  exaggerated  expressions tells them that they are  about to lose their family house. And to beware of Nina.

When Masha  (JUDITH MILLER) arrives, a few minutes later with her Toy boy Spike (JIMMY MASON) who like to display his physique by undressing. things get more complicated.

And when Nina (KELSEY ERHART) appears, she really causes problems to Masha, because the girl, a neighbor, is not only very pretty, but young and Spike notices that.

Demonstrating the mastery in their art, the acting of  each one of comic roles of the actors is so realistic, that they make the audience believe in their  situation. Their acting also demonstrates their uniqueness. and they are very different from each other,

In size, Vanya (MAYES) is a giant of a man. Nice looking, tall, big, polite, easy going and secretly gay.  Sonia (TYLER) introverted and frustrated. Spike, may or may not be sure of his sexuality because he is gay, but at the time the audience meets him he is dating Masha and  acts infatuated with a a pretty girl.

And Masha, being the beautiful one on the family and a famous movie/TV and Stage star, is vain and self-centered.  She needs to be “The Center of Attention” So, it is to no surprise to anynone, that when invited Costume party, her “guests” need to have her, as their focus, so, since she is going to be dressed as Snow White, Spike has to be dressed as “Prince Charming” Sonia “The Evil Witch.” (Which she refused to represent, dressed as the evil Queen instead) pretty Nina (ERHART) as the dwarf Dopey and giant Vanya as the dwarf Doc, (because he refuses to be Grumpy)

        L to R  JUDITH MILLER as Mash and PATRICIA TYLER as Sonia

And in a clever twist of the story, it is at the costume party, when our family’s characters enter the “make believe” world of the fairy tale they all are representing, that something “magic” happened to one of them. And as prophesied by Cassandra, Nina (ERHART) serves as a catalyst of the story when she ask Vanya (MAYES) to let her read his drama, and accepts to play the role of an ameba.

The comedy is creative, entertaining, and really funny. but gets serious enough at the end, to be able to deliver to the audience a powerful message. In reviewing the show, we could do nothing but to agree with the audience:  VANYA and  SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE, is a  delightful play. 

The play will play at the LUCIE  STERN THEATER 1305 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto CA 9430l until June 26.  For information and tickets online go to or call 650 329 0891