There’s a terrific production of the uneven 2013 Tony Winner for Best Play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang, on display at The Tipping Point theater in Northville — and it is an actors paradise — though it helps if the audience is in on their theater-gossip and references.
Originally opening at Lincoln Center Theater and transferring to Broadway at the Golden Theater, the show went on to generally win accolades in a not-very-strong 2013 theater season, including the “big” awards for best play. Christopher Durang’s rants and raves about contemporary culture and progress sound like something written by someone in their mid-80’s not their mid-60’s…none-the-less there is more good than bad in the show, and the best is on display in this production, the first (but not last) local presentation of the comedy. It lends itself to community theater and expect every single theater around the area to do it over the coming years as it gets its amateur release following a round of regional professional productions.
To make a long story short despite its lofty Chekhovian namesakes, its a pretty thin story: brother and sister Vanya and Sonia have been living in the house in which they grew up after tending to their aging and now dead parents in a state of inaction, ennui, and depression. Along comes a surprise visit by their successful actress sister Masha (who has been paying the mortgage) and her much younger beau Spike. Throw in a cleaning woman who fancies herself a modern-day Madame Arcati and a naive attractive neighborhood girl and hilarity ensues when Masha desides she needs to sell the house. And that is about it — but theater and actor references get thrown out as quickly as they can be mustered up and nobody is safe from the onslaught — not Lindsay Lohan, not Disney, and not a dozen others.
John Seibert plays David Hyde Pierce, um sorry, Vanya, and he’s terrific, especially in his big scene near the end of Act 2. Janet Maylie absolutely nails Sigourney Weaver, um sorry again, Masha. Terry Heck underplays the part of sister Sonia, and its more moving here than it was on Broadway, though it misses the over-the-top ethereal quality Kristine Nielsen brought to the original production. Sonja Marquis plays a terrific Cassandra, and her voodoo sequence steals the show. Brian Thibault plays mostly underwear-clad Spike, and Tara Tomcsik rounds out the cast in the underwritten role of Nina.
This is an all around exceptional cast of versatile actors, and they do very good work here in Tipping Point’s production. Well directed and beautifully paced by director James R. Kuhl the production moves swiftly from vignette to vignette, and the show comes in at 2:15 including the intermission. Monika Essen’s beautiful Bucks County house works well in the small space, and there is good costume work by Shelby Newport, and lighting by Alex Gay.
My personal thoughts about the show itself aside, this is a production you should not miss. It runs through October 19th at The Tipping Point Theatre, 361 East Cady Street, Northville, MI 248-347-0003 tippingpointtheatre.com