I got my first taste of a Repertory Philippines stage play when I accompanied my then first grade son in their field trip. It was followed by several more in the same scenario, sometimes with my daughter. My family’s interest in their stage plays grew as time went on until it became a good habit for all of us. So when Repertory Philippines announced the opening of its 80th Season through the comedy play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, our attendance was very much expected.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a comedy play written by Christopher Durang. Middle-aged siblings Vanya and Sonia lead uneventful lives in their ancestral home while their other sibling Masha lives what appears to be an exciting one as a movie star. Masha has been providing for her two siblings who were left to take care of their parents until their dying days. The usual unvarying environment was disrupted when Masha decides to come home with her toy boy Spike in tow. This comes on the heels of the doomsday predictions of the cleaning woman Cassandra to Vanya and Sonia.
Masha went home purportedly to attend a costume party at an influential neighbor’s house but with one other purpose in mind. The two got the most devastating surprise of their lives when Masha announced that she was planning to sell the house, leaving them with no place to go. Things got more interesting with the presence of Nina, a neighbor’s pretty niece who managed to make Masha envious and Spike lustful, without her meaning to.
Emotions reached a critical point when Spike rudely answers a text on his phone during the reading of a play written by Vanya. Masha discovers Spike’s betrayal when she reads the text revealing his affair with her personal assistant, prompting her to kick him out of the house. The play ends with the three siblings sitting quietly together after Masha decides not to pursue the sale of the house.
Story and Plot
The story itself is ordinary. We see this happening everywhere where one sibling becomes successful and ends up having more control over siblings who have been left behind to carry on family responsibilities. What makes the story of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike extraordinary is the treatment it receives from the writer and director, that is able to successfully transform it from what can possibly be a boring melodrama into an exquisitely funny storytelling of what is essentially just a slice of life.
The plays features veteran actors Cherie Gil as Masha, Michael Williams as Vanya, Rosalyn Perez as Sonia, and Joaquin Valdes as Spike. Also joining them are Natalie Everett as Cassandra and Mica Pineda as Nina. I am not a very big fan of using superlatives but by jove, all the actors gave such an excellent performance, I would have literally kicked myself if I missed this play. Gil was realistically confident, Williams was wonderfully restrained (except for his rant scene which called for the corresponding emotion), Perez’s performance is delightfully convincing, and Valdes played his role to the hilt. Everett was a master of long lines which left me in awe while Pineda was not afraid to appear unglamorous as a molecule. All of them are perfect for their roles.
Time and again I wonder about how much can happen in one setting just by the right lighting effects, sound, music, costumes, and make-up. This is usually what happens in every Repertory Philippines stage play. A complete story is told with minimum change in props and arrangements, if at all.
I love this play for all the reasons a member of the audience who has just watched an excellent performance would say so. You can still catch Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike until February 12, 2017 at OnStage Theater, Greenbelt 1, Makati City. Let us all laugh out loud with this comedy directed by Bart Guingona.