The theatre department will open productions of two comedies running in repertory Nov. 7-9 and Nov. 13-15: “Uncle Vanya” by Anton Chekhov, and “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” by Christopher Durang.
The plays have very different contexts in terms of time period and setting, but they share a number of connections.
“Perhaps the most relevant connections are the themes of hope and courage,” says Allyson Moon, director of theatre. She describes the plays as comedies with real characters caught in what feels like hopeless situations yet finding the courage to face life move on.
“Uncle Vanya” will be performed on Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 9, at 2 p.m.; and Friday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m.
“Vanya and Sonia and Manya and Spike” will be performed Saturday, Nov. 8, Thursday, Nov. 13, and Saturday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m.
All performances will be in the Richardson Performing Arts Center. Ticket prices are 10 dollars for adults and five dollars for students. Both shows contain adult language and are intended for mature audiences.
Russian playwright Anton Chekhov wrote a number of plays in his time, including “Three Sisters,” “The Seagull,” and “Uncle Vanya.” All three were identified as comedies by Chekhov.
According to Moon, “Uncle Vanya,” first published in 1897, contains themes of unfulfilled hopes and wasted lives, themes present in most of Chekhov’s writings. Each of Chekhov’s characters struggle with the loss of hope in their respective lives and must fight to find the courage to go on.
“Uncle Vanya” takes place in the estate of Ivan Petrovich (Uncle Vanya), where he lives with his mother, Maria, and his niece, Sonia. Vanya’s brother-in-law, an old professor who owns the estate, comes to stay there along with his second wife, who is much younger and very beautiful, capturing the attention of both Vanya and his friend Astrov, the local doctor.
The old professor is lazy and frustrating and causes tensions for Vanya throughout the play. Meanwhile Sonia suffers from deep feelings for Doctor Astrov, coupled with an awareness of her own lack of beauty. When the professor announces his intentions to sell the estate, which Vanya has spent the majority of his life managing, Vanya snaps and very nearly murders the professor.
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” directed by Allyson Moon, is Christopher Durang’s Tony Award winning Best Play of 2013, and is currently the most produced play in the United States. It is heavily based upon the characters and themes from Anton Chekhov’s plays, especially Uncle Vanya.
Vanya and Sonia spent much of their lives taking care of their sick parents in their old age, and since the passing of their parents have failed to move on with their lives, sitting at home doing nothing all day, every day.
The house is owned and paid for by their older sister Masha, who is a successful film actress and is never around. When Masha makes a surprise visit with her new and much younger boyfriend Spike, Vanya and Sonia have their worlds turned upside down.
Unspoken resentment bubbles forth between siblings when Masha announces her intentions to sell the house; Masha becomes jealous of a pretty young girl named Nina who catches Spike’s attention; Vanya is frustrated by how the world has changed, his emotions exacerbated by Spike’s youthful ignorance; and throughout, all are plagued with entreaties from the clairvoyant cleaning lady, Cassandra.
In addition to the character names, matching themes of hope and courage, and parallels in plot, the shows share a number of other counterparts, according to Roger Moon, director of “Uncle Vanya.”
Conspicuous references to Anton Chekhov and his plays “Three Sisters” and “The Seagull” are made within the script of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” The theater’s production of the shows will include shared props and set pieces between the shows to accent these parallels, and all of this is further highlighted by the shows running in repertory on consecutive nights and on the same stage.
The opportunity for these plays to be presented as a unit is a unique experience for cast, crew, and audience alike.
Anna Rosell, junior who is playing Maria in “Uncle Vanya, said, “It’s been a lot of fun to work with the two casts and make comparisons between the shows. The two Vanyas and the two Sonias play the parts in their own way, but also build off of each other.”
For more information about the show or for tickets, call (620) 229-7720 or (620) 229-6272.