Previously postponed from March 2020, the London premiere of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang, has finally opened at the Charing Cross Theatre in London starring 2-time Olivier Award-winner Janie Dee.
Vanya and his sister Sonia live a quiet life in the Pennsylvania farmhouse where they grew up, looking out of the window all day and bickering between themselves for lack of anything else to do. But when their sister Masha (who escaped many years ago and became a famous movie star) returns unannounced with her twenty-something boy toy, Spike, life gets turned on its head and they would all do well to listen to Cassandra (the cleaning lady) and her premonitions.
Christopher Durang’s irresistible comedy is one of the most lauded and beloved Broadway plays of recent years. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike blends Chekhov’s famous ennui with the modern-day concerns of celebrity, social networking, and the troubling onset of middle age, into a laugh-out loud comedy. It won the 2013 Tony Award for Best New Play.
Mix the Netflix TV series Grace and Frankie with the musical Sunset Boulevard and you’ve got the general feel for this show. Masha, the fading film star, is always in the limelight and her toned young lover, Spike, is all too happy to go along with her demands to be the centre of attention. Sister Sonia is the opposite – she never feels seen and longs to be noticed. But after a fancy dress party takes place, things shift in the dynamics of the relationship which doesn’t go down too well. And as for each of their wanted lovers, they might just have their eyes elsewhere!
The whole cast are amazing. Janie Dee is phenomenal as Masha, the Norma Desmond of the group, living her best life on stage playing the diva. Michael Maloney is warm and loveable as Vanya and Rebecca Lacey pulls on the heartstrings perfectly enough for you to be rooting for her by the end. Charlie Maher as the hunky young lover Spike is great and gets ample opportunity to show off his body and Sara Powell is hilarious as the kooky cleaner with her premonitions. Finally, Lukwesa Mwamba is wonderful as the star-struck neighbour, who makes Masha show her more vulnerable side when she feels threatened by someone younger than her being in the room.
It’s funny, thought-provoking and thoroughly enthralling – I wasn’t bored for a moment and would love to see the show again!
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is playing at the Charing Cross Theatre until 9 January 2022.
Reviewed by West End Wilma