By HOO SOOK HWANG
The 2013 Tony Award recipient, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, was a hit!
Ongoing laughter filled the theater, which indicated the play was a success. Top notch cast members created humor filled relationship dynamics on stage. Candy Buckley as Masha, Joshoua James Campbell as Spike, Ali Rose Dachis as Nina, Charles Janasz as Vanya, Isabell Monk O’Connor as Cassandra and Suzanne Warmanen as Sonia played extreme personalities which made fun of idiosyncratic interplay that emerges in human relationships.
Buckley, who played Masha was dramatic, annoying, self-involved and fragile. Masha reminded us that strong and self-assured people also possess vulnerabilities. Campbell played Spike. Spike was a young, athletic, air headed, but aspiring actor. His character is hilarious in modern time, but accentuates a generation gap and subsequently, a chasm that exists between those immersed in technologies versus people resistant to social media. Together, Buckley and Campbell revealed a relationship dynamic based on superficial aspirations at best, but shared obvious desires to fit into outside peer groups. Humorous, the relationship unfolded on stage and throughout the comedy. Masha and Spike reminded us to laugh at ourselves, as well as some of our normal and everyday misgivings.
Characters Vanya and Sonia, approaching retirement age, seemed stuck in lives that were comfortable but somewhat unfulfilled. The contrast of Vanya’s relationship with Sonia compared to Masha and Spike, revealed a Eurocentric generational gap, which plagued them at mid-life. Playing out sought after developmental mile markers people aspire to by a certain age, was lightly addressed in ways that helped the audience understand the random absurdities of too many societal pressures.
Cassandra, played by Isabel Monk O’Connor stole the show! Her combined wit, common sense and humor filled intolerance for outlandish egomaniacal behavior were marvelous. Casted as someone who helped out in the house, O’Connor’s character was wise and kind hearted. Through a multicultural and multidimensional lens, Cassandra was the only character able to step back from the out of control narcissism of Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike and facilitate resolve. Through a jovial stance, Cassandra bridged the misunderstandings of every day life.
The plays quick tempo and clever dialogue made for a truly enjoyable experience. If you need a good laugh with friends and you’re tired of channel surfing at home, this play reminded us that laughter is a great tonic.