Who’s coming to dinner at the Barker Playhouse?
Christopher Durang’s 2013 Tony Award winning play “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” comes to the Barker Playhouse in Providence, with compelling performances by the six-person cast. Director Steven Vessella brings life to the two-act, Chekhov-style comedy.
Vanya (Roger Lemelin) and Sonia (Sharon Carpentier), two middle-aged siblings who have lived their entire lives at their quaint family home in Pennsylvania, have done nothing of excitement in their lives. Typically accompanied by their cleaning woman Cassandra, who has a knack for predicting the future, they are visited by their rambunctious and ego-driven sister Masha, who has lived a life of stardom and fame as an actress.
Masha brings her new lover; a young, attractive, feeble-minded actor by the name of Spike (Nick Autielo), who always insists on taking off his clothes. Masha makes a stir when she mentions her plans to sell the house that they are living in. Despite this disparaging news, Masha focuses attention to the costume party that she insists on having everyone attend, dressing as dwarves to her Snow White. The family is greeted by another visitor, Nina (Kristen McGuirk), who is a young, attractive next-door neighbor with an obsession for Masha. Nina becomes a source of jealousy for Masha as Spike takes an interest in her.
Carpentier’s and Lemelin’s performances thrive as they portray the roles of two siblings stuck in limbo in the shadow of their famous sister. Sonia’s outbursts and determination to outshine Masha, as well and Casandra’s vague predictions of future events help to carry the excitement and bring unexpected turns to the otherwise static story. The play takes a more serious turn as they begin to reminisce on their pasts and search for the true meaning of family, where Vanya’s monologue of grievances brings thought-provoking delivery into the second act.
The audience was quite audibly enjoying themselves, especially with such a welcoming and friendly performance by the cast. McGuirk brings a smile to your face with her performance as a “molecule” in Vanya’s script read. Reoccurring jokes involving Cassandra’s fortune telling and use of voodoo was well done and always gave something unexpected for the audience to look forward to when she was on stage.
The small yet intimate theater shows its true capabilities in a show consisting of only one modest set, where the conversation and relationships between the characters carry the show. The Players have been able to deliver thought-provoking material through a hilarious and easily-digestible performance.
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” is playing at the Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit St. in Providence, through this upcoming weekend until Jan. 28.