Summertime is the right time for a refreshing cocktail of comedy, and Colonial Players serves up a hilarious gimlet with the 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Play, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike. Christopher Durang’s semi-absurdist script mixes a jigger of Chekhov with a Brothers Grimm simple syrup, adds a dash of Jerry Springer and tops it with a voodoo garnish.
Vanya (Jim Reiter), Sonya (Darice Clewell) and Masha (Rebecca Kyler Downs) are 50-something siblings raised in rural Pennsylvania by acting teachers, a legacy that scarred them all. An aging starlet with a series of nymphomaniac serial-killer films to her credit as well as five ex-husbands, Masha moved away long ago, leaving her siblings to care for their aging parents. But Vanya, who is single and gay, secretly aspires to write plays. Sonya, his adoptive sister, just wants to find love and a life of her own. The most exciting part of their day is morning coffee. Then Sonya starts smashing the cups in fits of despondency.
No sooner can she say Dust Buster than their clairvoyant Caribbean housekeeper, Cassandra (Ashley Spooner), foresees trouble. It arrives in the form of Masha, accompanied by the sixth great love of her life, young Spike (Patrick Finn), an eyeful of man-candy with a penchant for disrobing in public. Masha’s baggage, figurative and literal, includes costumes for a party for which she plans to outfit herself as Snow White with an entourage of dwarves. When Sonya upstages her as the wicked queen and Spike sets eyes on Nina (Hallie Parrott), the fresh-faced girl next door, the weekend turns stormy. It’s a delightful mélange of grandstanding and jealous rants buffered by Nina’s innocent adoration of the whole clan. That’s just Act I.
Act II is about endings, new beginnings and reconciliation. For a show about serious issues like eldercare, loneliness and fidelity, this story is surprisingly light, which is Durang’s genius. The unscripted interaction among these characters is as important as the script, and this cast is superb together.
Spooner as the clairvoyant Caribbean is a show-stopper (and starter) improvising with the audience during preshow announcements. Downs is over-the-top watchable, especially when Masha cleanses her aura, her desperation always just a head toss away. Finn, meanwhile, is a riotous spectacle of beefcake poses culminating in a reverse strip-tease worthy of The Chippendales.
Clewell charms as the Cinderella of her own fairytale, dogged by jealousy and pulled out of her dream by a life-changing phone call. Reiter earns spontaneous cheers for his rambling diatribe against Spike’s ignorance and that of his generation, baffling over the progress of modern life, from texting to multitasking and 785 TV channels. Married in real life, Reiter and Clewell’s familiarity enhances the nature of their on-stage relationship as domestic partners.
If you understand sibling rivalry and flagging spirits … if you appreciate the sound track of the Boomer generation … if you believe in the promise of personal transformation and sometimes miss stamps that you had to lick … then this show is a sure thing.
Runs two and a half hours. Includes some strong language. Director: Steve Tobin. Stage manager: Ernie Morton. Sound: Sarah Wade. Lights: Alex Brady. Set: Edd Miller. Costumes: Kaelynn Bedsworth and Carrie Brady.
Playing thru June 10: FSa 8pm, Su 2pm, Colonial Players Theater, East St., Annapolis; $20 w/discounts; rsvp:410-268-7373; www.thecolonialplayers.org.