REVIEW: You don’t need to know Chekhov to enjoy ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’


Courtesy of River Company

DAMARISCOTTA — When it comes to farce, the question for the actors and director is “just how far do we go?” Well, the creative folk at River Company, celebrating their 20th season, got it right with their rendition of Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” playing one more weekend at Skidompha Library’s Porter Meeting Hall.

Stephen Wallace as Vanya, a gay man in his 50s coming to grips with the passage of time, plays the role with appropriate restraint, while Christine Anderson does a winning portrayal of Sonia, his adopted sister, as an unhappy spinster who gets a reprieve from her suffering by way of an imaginary Maggie Smith. Anderson’s broad talent serves the role well, especially when her sister Masha shows up with a young stud in tow.

They are the first two characters we meet as the play opens with Vanya and Sonia in the house they live in together, setting the stage for the arrival of their sister Masha, played perfectly by Tamara Lilly. She is the acting equivalent of a mid-list novelist who no one’s ever heard of, but should. She shows up at the house in Buck’s County, Pennsylvania, to prepare it for sale, bringing with her a young stud (Tyson Bailey) who seems to have a hard time keeping his shirt on.

The set recreates a pleasant den room that is a good place for the Chekhov-named siblings to work out their fear and loathing. The result is a fast-moving comedy in which you don’t have to be totally familiar with Chekhov. What develops during the two hours on stage is that all three siblings are unhappy in their own way. Vanya and Sonia are the two siblings who stayed home to take care of their parents and 20 years later, as the play begins, they are dealing with the desire to change their lives.

At first it appears that Vanya is the least troubled and the one with both feet on the ground. Especially compared to Sonia, who lets go with a long rant about the unfairness and general sadness and disappointment of life.

By the time Masha arrives with her 20-something boy toy, the level of unrest rises considerably.

The play is bursting with sharp lines and Chekhovian references. (“We need a cherry orchard.” “Cherries don’t grow in orchards.”)

The acting is superb: From the exuberance of Masha, to the zany predictions of housekeeper Cassandra (Thalia Eddyblouin), to over-the-top fangirl Nina (Brittany Wallingford), the characterizations ring true.

Performances upcoming are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a matinée at 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15 for members, $17 for nonmembers and $5 for students at the door, which opens at 7 p.m., and 2:30 for the matinée. For more information, visit or email .

Bob Kalish can be reached at: