Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a comic tour de force about a bunch of Chekhovian characters full of yearning, who are simply waiting for the blue heron to appear to give them some peace.
David Hyde Pierce and Kristine Nielsen are siblings (by adoption) living in their late parents’ house in Bucks County, where they fight over coffee and stew with regret.
Enter their sister Sigourney Weaver, a wildly famous and narcissistic actress who needs to be the center of attention at all times, and her dumb and frisky lover, Billy Magnussen, who’s excited about having almost gotten cast in Entourage 2.
Add to the mix a voodoo-practicing, prophesying cleaning lady named, naturally, Cassandra (Shalita Grant) and a potential Eve Harrington type (Genevieve Angelson), and you’ve got a zany, flavorful bunch of characters aiming for higher and higher levels of self-pity.
Hyde Pierce is just plain perfect, and his monologue about the joys of the past (everything from licking stamps to Old Yeller) is pulled off with a virtuosic mastery of eccentricity and stagecraft.
Nielsen gives her best performance to date, getting big laughs with her Maggie Smith impression (she gets about six syllables out of “no-mi-n-aaa-aaaa-ted”), and becoming quite touching as she asks a romantic interest if she can use her real voice instead of Maggie’s with him. (Her phone conversation with the guy will surely become a standard audition monologue for women of a certain age, as Hyde Pierce’s stamp-licking one will be for the men. Durang has written some memorable stuff here. The play is filled with inside theater jokes, scorching barbs, and real soul. You’ll leave chanting along with “I haven’t lived!”)
Weaver seems to be stretching in her performance as such a superficial lady, but her emphatic delivery gradually won me over, along with a few great physical gags and her character’s ultimate transition.
Nicholas Martin has directed the whole thing with equal parts wit and feeling. I haven’t wanted to simultaneously laugh and cry this much since…Chekhov.