Time to Remember
Theatre Review: Kaleidoscopes' "Vanya, Sonia, Masha, and Spike" a delightful study in family dysfunction and partial nudity.
(Vanya, Sonia, Masha, and Spike , now playing at Kaleidoscope Theatre in Lynnhaven .)Middle aged Vanya and his adopted sister Sonia spend their days in their dead parents home bemoaning their drab lives. Having cared for said parents through their decline into death, the siblings themselves have never had a life of their own- no jobs, no relationships, no anything, and have depended solely on their movie star sister Masha to support them and the family home. The play opens with what must be a daily occurrence of non-sensical arguments over...nothing- the kind of which families excel . Vanya is the (somewhat) calm in the eye of the familial storm whereas Sonia is prone to crying fits and histrionics. Their maid Cassandra is a self proclaimed psychic/jewish-voodo queen who (one must presume this is a daily occurance) warns them of impending doom-this time heralding the dangers of "Hootie Pie". and also, of the surprise arrival of Masha. Their misperceived safe-haven is soon turned upside down by Masha- their vain, haughty, and wildly insecure movie star sister (she wanted a career of performing the classics but was relegated to cheesy action movies much to her chagrin) and her current boy-toy Spike- a struggling wannabe actor (whose biggest claim to fame is a flubbed callback for the movie Entourage 2). Masha claims she is merely there for a costume party a neighbor is having, but her visit has more diabolical implications for the siblings. Beware of Hootie Pie, indeed.
Director Doug Gilliland guides the sharply written comedy by Christopher Durang with clear vision of the absurdity of fractured family dynamics. Durang loosely based his characters from playwright Anton Chekovs' plays, and Gilliland keeps a dollop of Chekovian sturm and drang as an undercurrent to the farcical proceedings. His tight ensemble cast is splendid. Jason Blanks brings a resigned weariness to Vanya (subtly personifying his age with a hunch to his shoulders and a shuffling gait) that simmers to a boil in an epic eight minute monologue that is a sight to behold. Daphne Lewis - a veteran local actress known for her leading lady looks and her comedic chops- is a revelation in her bravura performance as Sonia. Cleverly cast against type, a sans-makeup Lewis is a mass of neuroses and insecurities, desperate to finally have a life . Kathy Tinder Lindsey's Masha may be grand, but she has her own insecurities that seem to cripple her. Aging action movie heroines have a limited shelf life in Hollywood, and Masha knows her time is up. Tinder-Lindsey keeps up the past her prime actresses' façade with aplomb while allowing the characters insecurities leak out. Hillary Hutchins plays Cassandra with a gonzo go for broke energy that results in mass hilarity. Destin Thomas (in his first ever role) brings a puppy dog innocence and charming goofiness to the underwear clad Spike, his gyrating and hip thrusting played more for laughs than intimidating overt sexuality. Megan McCarty plays Nina, a wide eyed innocent who is starstruck by Masha, with confidence and charm.
The set design by theatre co-founder Charles Wilson is beautiful as per usual- the man does stunning sets. The costumes by Linda McClindon and the cast are lovely-especially the fairy tale costumes for the(unseen) party scene.
What more can I say than this is a funny, funny show. More than worth the price of admission, check out this excellent example of talent in our local theatre scene.
Theatre Review: Emerald Coast Theatre Company's' "Eleemosynary" wows with words and commanding performances.
The vacant storefront of the former Coldwater Creek at Grand Boulevard has been transformed into an effective black box theatre for the current theatrical offering of Emerald Coast Theatre Company, Eleemosynary. As you walk in the doors, you are greeted by an showcase of local Artists for the pre-show art show. The store is divided from front to back by a black curtain which upon entrance reveals a an intimate space with the stage (a series of simple multi-level black platforms) to the right and a few rows of seats in front of them. It's an intentional design concept that focuses all attention on the actors and the words. What glorious words they are.
The story is hard to encapsulate in a summary as it is the language of the play and the laser-sharp characterizations of the talented actresses that bring this world to vivid life. Three generations of women, each brilliant and unique in their own way. The self proclaimed "eccentric" Dorthea puts the grand in grandmother. Prone to florid dress and wild ideas, she has alienated her daughter Artie through an upbringing of pushing her to think outside of the box. Artie (short for Artemis) is analytical, brilliant, and a bit shortsighted and rebellious to her mothers quirks and flights of fancy (a childhood incident involving home-made wings illustrates a momentous break in their relationship). Artie has a daughter, Echo, who Artie abandons to Dorthea after an exciting job opportunity arises, far from her mothers grasp. The play makes a strong case for a combination of nature and nurture as Echo grows to be precociously intelligent (like her mother) and open and free( like her grandmother).One of the joys of the play is Echos' love of words- throughout the show she spells words in practice for an upcoming spelling bee. The spelling of words becomes her only way of communicating with her distant mother who repeatedly calls to quiz her and nothing more. The mere act of spelling has a musical quality to it, and instead of being put off by the constant spelling, I felt a twinge of excitement (especially in the first few lines of the play when she pronounces and spell eleemosynary, unlocking the puzzle of the title, )
The play illustrates beautifully family dynamics and dysfunction and I found it universally relatable. Director Nathaniel Fisher keeps the pacing brisk and keeps the material from feeling overly sentimental. Costume designer Anna Fisher perfectly defines the characters with well chosen pieces (Dorthea in a stunning multicolored caftan, Artie in drab business wear, Echo in a mismatched blending of the two styles creating her own unique style of her own).
Darla Briganti is charismatic. You just can't take your eyes off her. Her Dorthea has a twinkle in her eye and a joi de vivre that is mesmorizing. This seasoned actress captivates even when lying prone on the stage (Dorthea has suffered a stroke). Sharon Biermann has the less showy role as Artie, who is closed off and steely, yet Biermann imbues her with a strength that shines through, and is just as powerful as her castmates. Rachel Nussbaum plays Echo with an openness of spirit and a heartbreaking innocence,
Three powerhouse performances, but many more reasons to see this play. This is what theatre can do, what it can achieve. I left fighting back tears, but inevitably relished the emotions it evoked. Go see it. I promise you, you won't be disappointed.
Memories, opinions, stories, reviews, pop culture.