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Blending Up Chekhov for Today

Mon, 03/06/2023 - 14:07
A performance of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" at LTV Studios in East Hampton last year.
Courtesy of Andrea Schiavoni

Robin Aren Productions will bring Christopher Durang's Tony Award-winning play "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" to Sag Harbor's Bay Street Theater beginning next Thursday.

Allen O'Reilly, Bay Street's director of education and community outreach, has been tapped to direct a cast of New York area and Sag Harbor hometown actors.

Although Anton Chekhov fans will recognize names of characters and themes from his plays, the audience doesn't have to be acquainted with the turn-of-the-20th-century Russian playwright in order to enjoy the comedy derived from the play's family dynamics. In Bucks County, Pa., the siblings Vanya and Sonia live out their middle age in their family house, quarreling over money and regrets after their parents -- theater fans and academics who named them intentionally -- have died.

Their sister, Masha, a successful actress, now owns the house and returns to it with Spike, her young flame. Announcing her intention to sell it, she throws the household into chaos. Contributing to the tensions are Cassandra, the housekeeper, and the ingenue next door, Nina, who reminds Masha of her own advancing age in comparison.

Mr. Durang, who premiered the play in 2012, once told Playbill that he was not aiming for a Chekhov parody. "I take Chekhov scenes and characters and put them into a blender." Mr. Durang's similarly named characters may not exactly match those in Chekhov's dramas or may serve as amalgams of characters drawn from across his oeuvre. Still, they are also their own beings, fully formed, he said.

The play is also fully of this century, with references to millennials, global warming, and texting as part of the comedy and "drama."

John Leonard plays Vanya, Teresa DeBerry is Sonia, Andrea Schiavoni (also the set and costume designer) is Masha, Connor Tuohy is Spike, Anna Schiavoni is Nina, and Catherine Bromberg is Cassandra.

Curtain times are 7 p.m. next Thursday and 8 p.m. on Friday, March 17, and March 18. The play closes on March 19 with a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets are $35 and available through Bay Street's box office, by calling 631-725-9500, or on the website

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