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Gallery Players present ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’

PARK SLOPE — Park Slope’s Gallery Players are gearing up for an exciting new presentation of the play “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” It’s set to open on Saturday, Feb. 22, and will run for 12 performances through March 8.

The play is the story of middle-aged siblings Vanya and Sonia, who share a home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where they bicker and complain about the circumstances of their lives. Suddenly, their movie star sister, Masha, swoops in with her new boy toy, Spike.

Old resentments flare up, eventually leading to threats to sell the house. Also on the scene are the mysterious and hilarious housekeeper Cassandra, who can predict the future, and a lovely young aspiring actress named Nina, whose beauty somewhat worries the imperious Masha.

The comedy was written by Christopher Durang and was originally presented at the McCarter Theater Center in Princeton, New Jersey in September 2012; it ultimately won the 2013 Tony for Best Play.

 “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” was produced by Marty Goldin and directed by Tom Rowan, who said that he was drawn to the play because he found it to be hilarious.

 “Durang has a distinctive comic voice and a unique, offbeat sense of life’s little absurdities,” Rowan told this paper. “But this play has a warmth and a sweetness about it that set it apart from many of his earlier plays, which have an angrier edge. That’s what I love about it; it’s a mellow, late-career piece that takes a wise and empathetic look at family relationships. It’s also a play that focuses in a light-hearted but honest way on the realities that people face in middle age — something many of us can really relate to,” Rowan added.

 According to Rowan, audiences need not be familiar with the works of Chekhov to enjoy the play but it would add extra enjoyment if they were.

“I wouldn’t call it a parody,” said Rowan. “Durang uses Chekhov references and parallels for comic effect and to underline his themes of the passing of time and the bittersweet ironies of life. The play’s echoes of Chekhovian themes and characters add depth and humor to the experience if you happen to be familiar with his plays; Durang uses them in all kinds of clever ways, some subtle and some obvious. But the characters and the story are funny enough that you will have a great time, whether or not you know Chekhov.”

The ensemble cast includes Dawn Evans, Jon Krupp, Staci Merritt, Jenny Lee Mitchell, Casterline Villar and Zach Barela who plays Spike.

 “Spike’s energy reminds me of when you’re watching Olympic gymnastics or ‘American Ninja Warrior’ and that childish part of you watches and thinks “I can do that!” It’s not coming from a place of cockiness or arrogance; it’s coming from that kid in you that needs to get into the bouncy castle to show everybody that you can do the best backflip in the world. It’s a sense of optimism I think everybody can relate to,” Barela told this paper.

He also said that the most challenging, but also most enjoyable, part of being in the play was when Rowan allowed him input into his character. “Tom has told me to ‘find something to do during this part,’ when we’re working on a scene,” said Rowan. “I have to throw a bunch of ideas into the room and let go of worrying if they’re funny or make sense and allow myself to just play with the behavior.”

Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors over 65 and children under 12.  Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with matinees on Saturdays, Feb. 29 and March 7, at 2 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. There will be an artist talk-back session following the Sunday, March 1 performance.

The Gallery Players is located at 199 14th St. in Park Slope.

Tickets can be purchased online at galleryplayers.com or by calling Ovationtix at 212-352-3101.

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