It was the arrival of the amazing Julie White in the role of Masha in Christopher Durang’s roarathon take-off on Chekhovian angst — “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” that got me to the Golden Theatre before its extended August 25 closing. What took me so long — since the character is my namesake (and the name saved my life during the war—long story).
But it was David Hyde Pierce’s performance in the role of Masha’s brother Vanya, who gives this play another reason for me to suspect that maybe Chekhov must have known — as no doubt does Durang — angst-ridden Jews.
Reverberating in my mind’s soundtrack was Hyde Pierce’s June 10, 2013 delightful side-splitting video montage at the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene Gala Concert of Eric Idle and himself singing “…you won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have Jews!” from Idle’s Broadway hit, “Monty Python’s Spamalot.” Among the Durang’s play’s list of 27 (!) producers there are indeed several Jews —including Jamie de Roy — who knew a hit when they saw the script.
Masha’s and Vanya’s sibling, long-suffering, love-hungry, Sonia (Kristine Nielsen) whose comedic delivery and timing beggars description may have given any therapist in the audience an out-of-mind experience as she magnificently channels Dame Maggie Smith. Masha’s boy-toy Spike (buff Billy Magnussen) raises pectorals and abs to new comedic heights. The indescribably off-the-rails Shalita Grant as Cassandra — a soothsayer of a wacky third kind — adds to the play’s hilarious give-and-take about life’s choices, love lost, sought, and discovered anew.
Deftly directed by Nicholas Martin with costumes by Emily Rebholz this is way better than Prozac. Catch the kvetchers if you can.
(And as it turned out, our next-seat laughers included three Forward readers!)