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Cassandra (Athena Gundlach) issues dire warnings to Sonia (Diane Bailey) and Nina (Victoria Saitz).

REVIEW: ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ with Raven Players in Healdsburg

Apr 24, 2019
by Alexa Chipman


Looking back at a life filled with regrets, a family struggles to reclaim their sense of identity and repair damaged relationships. Vanya and Sonia spend their hours sniping at each other, wishing they had taken more risks in their youth, while Masha has taken her career to the extreme, never stopping long enough to nurture genuine love. In a whirlwind arrival, Masha appears on the doorstep with her newest boyfriend, Spike, announcing that they are all to attend a costume party. In the ensuing clashes and revelations, the estranged siblings gain a new appreciation for each other and hope for the future.

Masha (Christi Calson) is not amused by Sonia (Diane Bailey) outshining her.Playwright Christopher Durang creates a delicious amount of awkward moments, steamy jealousy and melodramatic comedy, although he lingers unnecessarily on the exposition. Director Sandra Ish uncovers meaningful nonverbal exchanges, rather than relying on the somewhat lackluster dialogue, which makes it easier to connect with the characters.

Athena Gundlach as the theatrical psychic housekeeper Cassandra keeps the first act afloat with her constant antics and predictions of doom as she cleans the house. Whenever the scenes begin to lag, she blusters in, causing the audience to chuckle with appreciation at the high-spirited absurdity.

In a nuanced, compelling performance, Steven David Martin’s Vanya transforms throughout the play from a desensitized introvert to an emerging artist who speaks out against the meaningless frivolity of modern existence. “I don’t think much is articulate in the world anymore” he confesses. His passionate monologue is outstanding, filled with wistful reminiscing of days when correspondence involved complete sentences.

Vanya (Steven David Martin) attempts voodoo with Cassandra (Athena Gundlach).

Julie Raven-Smart’s set design of an aging farmhouse uses the full height of the theater while giving the impression of a snug, intimate home environment, complete with oars mounted on the wall. Flickering car headlights and soft warmth cover the stage from Dan Spears’ subtle lighting design.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike - Raven Players in HealdsburgThis light-hearted play of feuding siblings, Snow White costumes gone wrong, and self-aware molecules has heartwarming optimism and an enthusiastic cast.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Presented by Raven Players through May 5, 2019
Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 2:00pm, Thurs April 25 at 8:00pm
Tickets: $25 general, $20 senior, $10 student 

Raven Performing Arts Center
115 North Street, Healdsburg, 95448
(707) 433-6335

Photos courtesy of Ray Mabry Photography.

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Alexa Chipman Live Theater reviews



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