Sunday, April 17, 2016

reviews - VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE - Theater Works

Bruce Laks, Debra Rich, and Cathy Dresbach
Photo by John Groseclose
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 24th.

 "Christopher Durang's latest play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, won the Tony Award for Best Play and is centered around a trio of middle-aged siblings dealing with the shortcomings of their lives. The comedy is receiving a fine production from Theater Works with a cast of excellent Valley based actors and adept direction by Daniel Schay. While it is a comedy, there is an unexpected underlying sadness to this production as Schay passed away suddenly last week on the day before the show opened. The cast and crew have banded together to pay tribute to Schay with their very funny and moving portrayals....Cathy Dresbach is excellent as Sonia, who is full of self-pity and feels that she hasn't lived...Dresbach excels in creating a nuanced portrayal. She expertly plays the dramatic and humorous sides of the role, and her heartbreaking but hopeful delivery of a phone call Sonia receives in the second act is a master class in acting. Debra Rich is Masha, a commanding woman who is always used to having her way but also now feels old and vulnerable...Since Masha is the antagonist of the piece it is rewarding that Rich makes the part slightly comical and likable. This is especially commendable since Durang has written the part to be somewhat unrealistically negative, nasty, and mean to Sonia. Both Rich and Dresbach also add plenty of realism to their parts, especially in how they make us believe their characters are soul searching for the answers to their future and the decisions they make. Vanya is a less showy role since he is the quiet and mostly subdued observer, and Bruce Laks is fine in the part, especially in how Vanya attempts to mediate at times the insanity that is swirling around him. Vanya has a comical rant in the second act, where he rages on how he misses the past and worries about the future, and while I believe it goes on a bit too long (something I felt even when I saw the original pre-Broadway production of this play), Laks keeps his outburst realistic and heartfelt....Director Dan Schay did a fine job with his direction, with the right balance between the serious and humorous moments, not letting the funny bits get too broad or too out of control. ...While Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike has a couple of flaws in the script and occasional unrealistic characters, it is a modern tale with likable, though slightly odd, characters and a huge heart at its center. It is that heart, along with Durang's smart dialogue that makes this play a warm, comical gem. Theater Works' production features some great performances and is full of warmth and laughs. Schay was the executive director of Theater Works and former managing director at Phoenix Theatre and beloved across the Valley. His work on this production is a fitting tribute to a life dedicated to the arts."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"“The show must go on” ...So there was no question that Theater Works’ production of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” would open as scheduled on Friday, April 8 — less than 48 hours after the Peoria company was sent reeling by news of the death of its executive director for the past four years, Daniel Schay....Schay’s final show as director is also a tribute to his skill working with actors. And it is fitting, perhaps, that his swan song is a rip-roaring salute to the absurdity of life — because what is more absurd about life than the inevitability of death?...The performances are all bona-fide hoots, from (Debra) Rich’s divalicious cattiness as an unrepentant drama queen to (Bruce) Laks’ slightly unhinged rant about the short attention span of the digital generation and the joys of the corny but sincere pop culture of yesteryear. And (Cathy) Dresbach, one of the Valley’s finest actors for decades now, is positively mesmerizing as a down-in-the-dumps hand-wringer with a diva personality of her own just waiting to break free....the best way to remember Schay, for both the actors and the audience, was to be able, if only for the space of two hours, to forget."  - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

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