VANYA & SONIA &
MASHA & SPIKE
by Christoper Durang
Middle-aged siblings Vanya and Sonia live in the family home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. They and their sister were named after characters in the plays written by the 19th century, Russian playwright Anton Chekhov by their theater-enthusiast professor parents, Vanya and Sonia have not had to grow up. After spending their adulthood looking after their now-deceased parents, neither has a job, and money is provided by their movie star sister Masha, who owns the house and pays the bills. Vanya (who is gay) and Sonia (who is forever reminding everyone that she was adopted) spend their days reflecting on their lost chances, debating whether the grove of nine cherry trees on their property constitutes an orchard, and bemoaning their lot in life (much like the characters in Chekhov's plays). The only other resident of the house is their cleaning woman Cassandra, who, like her namesake from ancient Greek mythology (and theater) is prone to making dire prophecies that no one believes.
This static environment is disrupted when Masha returns home, bringing with her a flurry of drama, an endless litany of insecurity, and a much younger, gorgeous, dimwitted lover named Spike. Sonia's resentments and Masha's competitive nature begin to spark arguments, and while Vanya tries to keep the peace, he is repeatedly distracted by the muscular (and often shirtless) Spike, who takes every opportunity possible to strip down and show off his muscular body. Masha's fifth marriage has recently ended and her career is starting to stall. Spike's career has never started, and his biggest claim to fame is nearly landing a part in the sequel to Entourage: Entourage 2. Another interloper arrives, the neighbor's pretty niece Nina, an aspiring actress who provokes envy in Masha, lust in Spike, and sympathy in Vanya.
Masha has returned home to attend a costume party at an influential neighbor's house and insists that her friends and family dress as characters from Walt Disney's animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, featuring herself as the Disney princess and the others as her supporting cast. When told she will be going as one of the dwarfs, Sonia decides to rebel and dresses up as the Evil Queen, imagining her as portrayed by Maggie Smith on her way to the Oscars. As they prepare for the party, Masha tells them she intends to sell the house, leaving Vanya and Sonia devastated.
Things come to a head the day after the party. As Cassandra uses a voodoo doll on Masha, trying to dissuade thoughts of selling the house, Sonia -- who was a big hit the night before -- receives a phone call from a man she met at the party, requesting a date. Hesitant and bewildered, she accepts. Vanya, who is secretly writing a play inspired by Konstantin's imagined symbolist drama in Chekhov's play The Seagull, is convinced by Nina to let her read it in front of the others. During the reading (which stars Nina as a molecule and takes place after the destruction of the earth), Spike rudely answers a text on his phone, and dismisses Vanya's suggestion of a handwritten response. Vanya reacts by launching into an impassioned rant, criticizing America's cultural regression in communication and media, while fondly and wistfully recalling the surroundings and memories of his childhood. Concluding that the intent of such progress seems to make people like him feel lost and forgotten, he retreats into the kitchen in tears.
Masha realizes that the person Spike is texting is her personal assistant, with whom he has been having an affair. She ends her relationship with him and kicks him out of the house, announcing she no longer intends to sell it. As the play ends, the three siblings, optimistic for the first time in a very long time, sit quietly together and listen to The Beatles' song "Here Comes the Sun."
Date Aired: September 21, 2020
Team: Jennifer, Ricardo & Sam
Analysis Technique: Background Information
Community Voices: Johanna Dunphy calling about Episode 1.1 THE WOLVES