Farcical Fun at Footlighters in Berwyn: VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE

by Julie May

My husband and I attended the opening night performance in Berwyn PA of The Footlighter Theatre’s production of VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE. This Tony Award winning comedy/farce is great fun! The situation of a domineering sister and family issues makes a great groundwork for interesting characterizations. Here are our thoughts on the production:

Characters (in order of appearance):

Vanya (Joe Tranchitella) –Christopher Durang, the playwright, unveils Vanya’s underlying character with a culminating powerhouse monologue near the end of the show when Vanya’s years of frustrations come to a boil. Joe T. totally captures the audience with his mesmerizing performance of this very challenging and revealing moment in the show.

Sonya (Karen Eckstein-Sarkissian) – Sonya is the most complex character on the stage. Karen E-S is at a disadvantage in that Sonya’s first moments are full of anger and frustration. I as an audience member didn’t sympathize with Sonya in the beginning. But as the show progressed , Sonya was allowed to develop and she grew on me. And Karen E-S delivered Sonya’s Act 2 monologue with strength. You feel the depths of her despair and the exhilaration of her success. Karen E-S fills the role!

Cassandra (Jillian Bosman) – Jillian B. is an energetic actor and her manic seer is spot on! She captured the audience every time she came on stage.

Masha (Barbara Burri) – Barbara B, as the “older” movie star, sister to Vanya and Sonya, sweeps on stage and takes charge. Masha owns the family home; she works to manipulate her “boy – toy” Spike – and her brother and sister. Barbara B. owns the audience. She allows the audience to see Masha’s strengths and ultimately her weaknesses. She is the heart of the play.

Spike (Steven Harding) – Steven H. has one of the hardest roles in the show. He must convince the audience of his relationship with Masha, all the while, not letting the audience in as Spike plans his escape from her life. He plays a believable “boy-toy”.

Nina (Abby Scott) – Abby S. portrays a delightful, wide eyed, movie/theatre/personality star-struck fan and her performance is very refreshing and genuine.

Production values – the set is functional and conveys the feel of an old family home that has seen better times. The placement of the all important doors to the outside and “the pond” perhaps hindered some of the staging, but the actors all were able to engage the audience as they inhabited their characters and the set served to underscore the circumstances of the characters. And director Travis Millman’s final picture at the end of the show was strong. The audience left the theatre understanding that this basically dysfunctional family has found some common ground and they will survive and perhaps find some connection with each other.

It was a thoroughly entertaining performance!

Footlighters Theater
58 Main Avenue
Berwyn, PA
(610) 296-9245

Review submitted by:
Julie May

Author’s Bio:
Actor and director for past 20 years of community theatre. Have performed with or directed many of the Gilbert and Sullivan theatre companies in the Delaware Valley and have directed and performed at the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in England. Have performed at several of the community theatres in the area. Recently performed in FORUM at Players Club of Swarthmore and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN at Forge Theatre. Will direct the University of Pennsylvania Penn Singers in their spring 2016 G & S production. Soloist at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Chester.

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