Thursday, May 16, 2013

Durang Outdoes Himself

Billy Magnussen & Kristine Nielson

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Yes, the title is quite a mouthful, and when telling people about the play, if you do see it, you'll just say "that Vanya thing" or something along those lines. But so what? This is by far Durang's best play yet in his long career. And in the hands of this superb cast, it shines far beyond my expectations. Usually, I go into a Durang play expecting over the top sarcasm and I usually leave exhausted or dissatisfied. And, it's not always because of the writing. Often it's because his plays are extremely difficult to stage in a way that keeps the audience believing they are watching the struggles of real people and not just strange cartoons of humanity. Often the actors and the director don't understand what is necessary to make his work shine. The key is that no matter how over the top the character goes or the situation dictates, the audience must never fully reflect on the fact that what they are seeing is so ridiculous it could never happen in a million years. You have to make them believe, at least for an hour or two. The way you do this as an actor is to commit one hundred percent to the shred of truth in whatever the situation happens to be and never, ever let go of it.

Now, in this new production the actors were helped tremendously by Durang in that all the characters had depth and something very real and believable at stake. This wasn't always the case in some of his prior plays.

And this cast with Sigourney Weaver, David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen, Billy Magnussen and Genevieve Angelson play this show to perfection. Mixing various Chekov themes, Durang and his troop create a tongue in cheek, yet still reverent homage to the great master.

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