Review: Durang's 'Vanya and Sonia' a zany joy

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 14, 2013 at 7:58 pm •  Published: March 14, 2013
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NEW YORK (AP) — In most theaters, the sight of someone pulling out a cellphone and texting during a performance is very much frowned upon. In the world of Christopher Durang, the guy texting is actually onstage interrupting a play he's watching.

That's typical of the things flipped around in the playwright's utterly refreshing farce "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," which happily has made the leap from off-Broadway to open Thursday at the Golden Theatre.

It's a sweet, witty play with a huge pop culture appetite. Durang flings all kinds of references into his word processor: Angelina Jolie, Snow White, Maggie Smith, global warming, Norma Desmond, William Penn, "Peter Pan," the HBO show "Entourage," Lindsay Lohan, ancient Greek drama, voodoo and, as the title suggests, a big dollop of Anton Chekhov.

It centers on three middle-aged siblings named after Chekhov characters who are uneasily negotiating with age. Two of them — Vanya, a perfectly laconic David Hyde Pierce, and Sonia, a sweetly sensitive Kristine Nielsen — have been sitting around their Pennsylvania home and bickering for years ever since their parents died.

The sibling who escaped, Masha, has become an insufferable movie star and has returned to sell the house, leaving her sister and brother with the prospect of being homeless and penniless. Sigourney Weaver, a longtime collaborator with Durang, plays Masha with flamboyant overacting. She's clearly having a ball; the whole cast is.

Rounding up the cast is Masha's boy-toy Spike (a splendidly buoyant Billy Magnussen), a housekeeper convinced she can see the future (a very game Shalita Grant) and an ethereal neighbor (the fairy-ish Genevieve Angelson).

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