A review of the Kentwood Players’ “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” running through October 10.
This was my first visit to the Kentwood Players in Westchester. The newly refurbished theatre is a destination spot nestled in between the train tracks to the beach and a lovely residential neighbourhood. The theatre has a fantastic front terrace with plenty of outdoor seating for audiences to gather before a show. It has that unique L.A. vibe, an oasis in the city.
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” is an utterly brilliant play. Tony Award-winning in fact, and written by the celebrated Christopher Durang. The story is set around three siblings, Vanya, Sonia and Masha, at their childhood home in the country. Masha, a very successful actress, is home for a visit. Her brother and sister, Vanya and Sonia, stayed to help their now deceased parents but now feel stuck, unable to move on or build their own lives.
As the story unfolds, we meet more characters. Spike, Masha’s very much younger aspiring actor boyfriend, Cassandra, the cleaner with a wonky penchant for predicting the future, and Nina, a neighbour’s niece whose youthful admiration for Masha and beguiling dewy beauty come up hard against Masha’s icey gaze.
It’s all very funny. An ode to Chekov, of course, and his tightly wound family dramas, this play is a fresher, slightly less cynical turn on who we are born to be with, like it or not.
The set design is lovely, clearly the new theatre gives Kentwood Players a great base on which to build. Everyone is really very believable and quite excellent in their roles. All gnawing regret and simmering resent played beautifully with dark humor and tenderness and love.
Perhaps it was the 18 months of pandemic-enforced Zoom rehearsals, or the almost bespoke nature of the fit of actor and role. However, this production works astonishingly well. The Kentwood Players picked a play with bite, they poured everything into it, and the result is polished and funny, poignant and satisfying. I cannot wait to see more from this skilled company of actors. Bravo!!!
Chris Morrison (Vanya), Valerie Sullivan (Sonia), Sarilee Kahn (Masha), Giovanni Navarro and Jeff Dewitt (Spike), Susan Stangl (Cassandra) and Isabella Petrini (Nina).
Written by Christopher Durang
Directed by Susan Stangl
Produced by Alison Boole and Myron Klafter
The Kentwood Players’ “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”
Running through October 10.
Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Saturday and Sunday at 2pm.
8301 Hindry Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90045