Review: 'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike'

September 26, 2013
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At the Phoenix Theatre, a solid cast effectively demonstrates how to turn a fair play into a very entertaining evening.

Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” picked up a Tony Award just a few months ago for Best Play on Broadway, but that speaks more to the few original plays staged last season than it does to the quality of this one. That’s not to say it’s a bad play—just a scattershot one that feels a few drafts away from solid.

You might not notice that, though, given the joyful attack being launched on it by Charles Goad and Diane Kondrat, who play the first two of the title quartet.

As step-siblings lamenting the lack of excitement in their lives, the duo turned inertia into theatrical bliss. And the blossoming of Kondrat’s Sonia—particularly during a phone call where she’s alone on stage—is a sight to behold, showing a surprising sweet side to the usually absurdist, cynical Durang while offering a master class by Kondrat in soulfully funny acting.

Less effectively written are prophecy-spouting cleaning woman Cassandra (Dwandra Nickole Lampkin) and Masha, a Hollywood actress who is given far too much stage time with little to do but offer variations on shallow. To actress Jen Johansen’s credit, the imbalance merely tilts the play rather than sinks it. More endearing are Spike, unashamedly played (even in his skivvies) by Pete Lindblom, and Nina (Ashley Dillard), the picture of enthusiastic sweetness.

“You must always get your hopes up,” says Nina, which isn’t a philosophy I expected from a Durang play, but one that plays beautifully in this smartly designed, well-directed production.  

Speaking of "Vanya etc.," it's one of the most-produced plays in the country this season. See the rest of the top ones here.

Look for additional reviews of the IRT's "The Crucible" and NoExit Performance's "Big Bad Wolf" in the Sept. 30 IBJ.

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  1. John, unfortunately CTRWD wants to put the tank(s) right next to a nature preserve and at the southern entrance to Carmel off of Keystone. Not exactly the kind of message you want to send to residents and visitors (come see our tanks as you enter our city and we build stuff in nature preserves...

  2. 85 feet for an ambitious project? I could shoot ej*culate farther than that.

  3. I tried, can't take it anymore. Untill Katz is replaced I can't listen anymore.

  4. Perhaps, but they've had a very active program to reduce rainwater/sump pump inflows for a number of years. But you are correct that controlling these peak flows will require spending more money - surge tanks, lines or removing storm water inflow at the source.

  5. All sewage goes to the Carmel treatment plant on the White River at 96th St. Rainfall should not affect sewage flows, but somehow it does - and the increased rate is more than the plant can handle a few times each year. One big source is typically homeowners who have their sump pumps connect into the sanitary sewer line rather than to the storm sewer line or yard. So we (Carmel and Clay Twp) need someway to hold the excess flow for a few days until the plant can process this material. Carmel wants the surge tank located at the treatment plant but than means an expensive underground line has to be installed through residential areas while CTRWD wants the surge tank located further 'upstream' from the treatment plant which costs less. Either solution works from an environmental control perspective. The less expensive solution means some people would likely have an unsightly tank near them. Carmel wants the more expensive solution - surprise!

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