Christopher Durang Meets Anton Chekhov

Kate Rowland and Shantal Survina prepare for VSMS

By Mary Norquist

Christopher Durang’s newest play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, adds a dollop of wise ruefulness to the mix of his comic genius. Dealing with middle age, family, ambition as well as where they take you when you’re at a certain age with a lot of life behind, but there’s still a lot left to live, Durang weaves several Chekhov characters together in a humorous and intriguing way.

Theater
Vanya and Sonia
and Masha and Spike
By Christopher Durang
Produced by Players Workshop
Fri-Sat, Jul 222-23, 7:30pm
Thu-Sat, Jul 28-30, 7:30pm
Sun, Jul 24 and 31, 3pm
San Miguel Playhouse
Ave Independencia 82
Tickets are available online now at Playerssma.com. (US$12)
The ticket office is at Mesones 57 at Reloj. (200 pesos)

Durang is an award-winning playwright whose work has appeared on and off Broadway. He comes from a family that loved literature. He started reading famous plays at an early age.

When he was 14 he tried to read his first Chekhov play, The Seagull. The Russian names intimidated him so he went back to plays with easier names! He wrote comic plays as well as two musical comedies that were put on at his Catholic high school. His guidance counselor encouraged him to apply to famous schools and told him to stress his playwriting. To his big surprise, he got into Harvard.

Harvard didn’t have a theater major, but it did offer some theater classes. He signed up for one of them. On the first day the professor announced that they were going to read several plays, and the first one was a Chekhov play—you guessed it—The Seagull. He could now understand it more and went on to enjoy Chekhov plays.

In his junior year at Harvard, he saw Three Sisters. The cast was excellent and portrayed the three sisters, Olga, Masha, and Irina, perfectly. Durang found it haunting, and it became his favorite of Chekhov’s plays. A few years later, he read Uncle Vanya. This is a sad and disturbing play having to do with betrayal and loss. Vanya and his niece, Sonia, are both rejected by people they love. Durang was struck by the emotional sadness of Chekhov plays.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was written by Durang at about the same age as Sonia in Uncle Vanya when she, and other Chekhov characters, began to reassess choices made in the past. In this introspection, he wondered about living a different kind of life. What if it had been more like a Chekhov character’s life?

This play is not a parody. It is a comedy, and it is set in the present day. Durang says, “The play takes Chekhov characters and themes and puts them into a blender.” This Tony-winning play is not one to miss!

 

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