October 01, 2013
White’s Production of Durang Play in Berkeley a Hit
: The BRT cast of "Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike: (l to r) Anthony Fusco, Caroline Kaplan, Mark Junek, Lorri Holt.. Photo by Kevin Berne.
: Courtesy of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis.
: The BRT cast of "Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike," courtesy of kevinberne.com. Photo by Kevin Berne.
UPDATE: Cornish’s Richard E. T. White scores a direct hit at Berkeley Rep with his direction of the new Christopher Durang Play, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike.
The reviews are in! All the classic with none of the pain: that’s the kind of thing critics are saying about Christopher Durang latest play Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, which apparently delivers the Chekhov experience with all of the sturm and none of the drang. The work has been a Tony Award-winning hit on Broadway, and now it’s a hit in a major West-Coast production directed by Cornish theater chair Richard E.T. White at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike opened September 20 and plays through October 20.
The excitement surrounding the production started with a preview cover story in The San Francisco Chronicle’s 96 Hours section. Then the reviews started to roll in.
“Misery loves comedy in Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,” begins Robert Hurwitt’s rave in The San Francisco Chronicle. “A bountiful mash-up of Chekhov’s four major plays with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Ingmar Bergman, the Beatles, Old Yeller, the Oresteia and Maggie Smith thrown in… Hilarious!”
At The San Jose Mercury News, Karen D’Souza likens the play to a Chekhovian plunge down the rabbit hole. “A hoot and a half… So many belly laughs that the wistfulness at the core of the hijinks is all the more poignant.”
Georgia Rowe calls Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike “A giddy new Berkeley Repertory Theatre production,” in The San Francisco Examiner. “Durang shows us how funny unhappiness can be. Directed by Richard E.T. White, a top-notch cast assumes characters of Chekhovian proportions to take a freewheeling ride through contemporary angst.”
Emily S. Mendel of Berkeleyside writes: “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is more than the sum of its parts, with theatrical allusions, witticisms and physical comedy blending to create a wonderful night at the theater.”
“A proven recipe for hilarity!” wrote Leo Stutzin of the Huffington Post.
White says he is delighted to be returning to the Berkeley Rep. “I began at Berkeley Rep in 1984 and became the resident director under Sharon Ott,” he says in a video made for the production (below). “I was with Berkeley Rep for two years and then returned regularly as a freelance director through 1994, actually. I’m very happy to be coming back.”
White says that he is particular excited to be returning to his old stomping ground to direct a play that he calls a “wonderful, humane, sweet-natured-but-acerbic and slightly lunatic comedy by Christopher Durang.
“It’s about the fact that at certain times in our lives we have to choose our family,” he continues. “And as adults, we have the option, suddenly presented to us, of choosing our family. One never knows when the time of choosing one’s family is going to be. Durang has a kind of omnivorous cultural appetite, which he brings forward in this play.”
The Berkeley Rep says that the play by the author of comedies such as Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You and The Marriage of Bette & Boo, “Turns Chekhov on his head with this witty and incisive farce.
“In bucolic Bucks County, Vanya and Sonia fritter their lives away in their family’s farmhouse amid regret, angst, and the alarming prophecies of an addled housecleaner. Enter their sister Masha, a self-absorbed movie star with her prized boy toy Spike, and the stage is set for an absurd weekend of hilarity and global warming. Acclaimed director Richard E.T. White returns to Berkeley Rep to stage the laugh-inducing Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, a loving homage to Chekhov’s themes of heartbreak and hope.”
A critical success, reviewers note the way Durang weaves together strands of the ridiculous and the profound. “The play may be frothy and silly,” writes David Cote of Time Out: New York, “but it’s gracefully written and hits notes of genuine pathos and anger in the second act: a touching phone monologue for Sonia, given a chance at love, and a superbly dyspeptic rant against modern life by Vanya. If misery loves company, you’ll have a ball with this hilarious, beguiling crew.”
Richard E. T. White came to Cornish after a three-year residency in Japan, where he was a visiting professor of English at Toin Yokohama University and Resident Director at Tokyo’s Theatre Company Subaru. Richard has directed at regional theaters throughout the U.S., including the Old Globe Theatre, the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, American Conservatory Theater, the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Seattle’s Seattle Repertory, Intiman and A Contemporary Theatre. Recent directing credits include American Buffalo, The Goat and Hedda Gabler at ACT in San Francisco and The Clean House at Milwaukee Repertory Theater. With librettist/performer Rinde Eckert and composer Paul Dresher, he developed and directed the electronic opera Slow Fire, which has been performed throughout the United States and Europe. He has served as Artistic Director of San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre and the Wisdom Bridge Theatre in Chicago and has taught acting at UC Berkeley, the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival Institute and the Drama Studio London at Berkeley. Richard holds a BA in drama from the University of Washington and did graduate work at UC Berkeley. A member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers since 1985, he has received nine Bay Area Theater Critics’ Circle Awards and eight Drama-logue Awards for Outstanding Direction.
Richard E. T. White talks about his production of Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike at Berkeley Rep:
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