Thursday, August 4, 2016

So who are Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike anyway?

by Matthew Reddin, MCT marketing director

We're only a week away from opening night for VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE, but there's one question left to answer: Who are these people?

Answering that honestly? There be spoilers. But we can hint at more than enough about the six characters who'll appear on the Cabot Theatre stage using the words of the best authority on the subject: Christopher Durang, the playwright who wrote the play in the first place.

In his Author's Note in the published script of VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE, Durang writes that the names of his first three titular characters are lifted from Chekhov, with a "very modern" name to jar the listener into laughter. But he also adds that "the play is not based on Chekhov, nor is it a parody of Chekhov. ... It's as if I took characters and themes from Chekhov and put them in a blender."

In a sense, then, these abridged character descriptions, all in Durang's words, could be likened to a tasty sextet of summer smoothies. Drink up -- we'll see you at the theater.

VANYA (C. Michael Wright)

He has mostly lived in the house he grew up in. I feel that he went to college but then came home expecting to stay only a while. But he stayed the rest of his life, partly to take care of his parents as they suffered a long period of illness and then died.

SONIA (Jenny Wanasek) 

She was adopted. She was 8 when she joined the family. Vanya was probably 10 or 11, Masha was probably 13 or even 14. When their parents decided to adopt Sonia, they undoubtedly told their two older children to be kind and welcoming. And I think Vanya did like Sonia pretty quickly, and they were closer in age. Masha was already in her own world.

MASHA (Carrie Hitchcock)

Masha is a successful actress and movie star who has a glamorous life, and is a millionaire from her successful Sexy Killer movies. There are many prototypes of the self-involved, glamorous actress: Madam Arkadina in Chekhov's The Seagull, Judith Bliss in Noel Coward's Hay Fever, and Bette Davis as Margo Channing in the classic film All About Eve.

SPIKE (JJ Phillips)

Spike is Masha’s “beloved,” as she says. But basically they have been together for three months, and their age difference is really rather big. Spike genuinely likes and finds Masha attractive, but as a young man he has a non-stop eye for lots of women, including young women.

CASSANDRA (Rรกna Roman)

I have always loved the Greek tragedy character of Cassandra, who sees the terrible future ahead and warns people, but the god Apollo has cursed her so that no one believes what she prophesies. Cassandra has pretty much no connection to Chekhov, but my impulse was to give Vanya and Sonia a cleaning woman who had the name Cassandra and could indeed see the future, at least somewhat.

NINA (Elodie Senetra)

Nina is indeed somewhat like Nina in The Seagull. In Chekhov, she is an aspiring actress, and she is agog at meeting Madam Arkadina. But my Nina is also American, and she has rather classy tastes. She is very young and full of hope.

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE, directed by Marcella Kearns, runs August 11 to 28 at the Broadway Theatre Center's Cabot Theatre, 158 N. Broadway. For tickets and additional information, call 414.291.7800 or visit

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