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Wesleyan show promises laughter

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike will run through February 19 at the Thad Smotherman Theatre. Photo courtesy of Jacob Sanchez.

 Theatre Wesleyan will continue its 2016-17 season with its production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which opens on Thursday.

Vanya, written by Christopher Durang and directed by associate professor of theatre Jeanne Everton, was the winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play.

The themes and characters of Anton Chekhov’s original play — including The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, The Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard — are what inspired Christopher Durang to write the comedy that Theatre Wesleyan is producing, according to theatre business manager, Jacob Sanchez.

“The director is an admirer of playwright Anton Chekhov’s works,” Sanchez said.

The play is about middle-aged siblings, Vanya and Sonia (played by Colton Mallory and Kimberly Owen), sharing a home in Bucks County, Pa., where they bicker and complain about the circumstances of their lives.

Suddenly, their movie-star sister Masha (Jasmine West) swoops in with her new boyfriend, Spike (Tristen Brown). Old resentments flare up, eventually leading to threats within the family.

There are also other characters such as sassy maid Cassandra (Holli Price), who can predict the future, and an aspiring actress named Nina (Crystal Salazar), whose prettiness somewhat worries Masha.

Sanchez said audiences can expect Theatre Wesleyan’s production to transport them into the home of Vanya and Sonia as their sister Masha returns home with her boyfriend Spike.

“Audience members will be able to relate to all of our characters in one way or another, even as those characters endure some of the more bizarre circumstances,” Sanchez said. “Audience members will be able to enjoy a fun-filled night at the theatre.”

Everton said audiences will love the funny nature of the play.

“Every character has a set of specific characteristics,” Everton said. “A lot of times Christopher Durang takes characters to extremes. There is the quiet thoughtful man, the woman who suffers from low self-esteem, another who is a celebrity and full of herself, and then there’s this young man named Spike, who is not a member of the family, which causes everybody’s situation to go a little crazy because of his appearance.”

Everton said the play is relatable in that it reminds audience members of their own families.

“It’s a funny family,” Everton said. “Everybody’s got a failing one, everybody’s smart, and when they come together, just like siblings, they fight. My favorite thing about this play is that the brothers and sisters fight just like families fight. People love each other, but by virtue of the fact that they love each other, they feel free to fight if they have a difference of opinion or if one thinks that another is not doing the right thing, so I think it’s very relatable.”

Jalan Calloway, a theatre fan and previous liberal arts major at Trinity Valley Community, said when she sees a production like Theatre Wesleyan’s she is attentive in how characters will fulfill their roles and appearance on stage.

“I’m really interested in how characters look according to a play,” Calloway said. “Not perfectly down to the minute costumes or makeup but enough to know that I’m watching a play about Vanya.”

Calloway also said that costumes are what she pays attention to the most in a production, as well as how actors interact with their surroundings.

“If they can sell me what’s going on and keep me emotionally invested,” Calloway said. “Then that is what usually interests me because when I was working on a production, I tried to make sure everyone knew their cues and was able to mime props so that audiences feel emotionally invested as well.”

Everton said the production will not change lives but will keep audiences laughing.

“It’s just funny and audiences won’t be bored,” Everton said.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike runs through Feb. 19. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. except for Feb. 19, when there will be a 2 p.m. matinee. All performances are at the Thad Smotherman Theatre. Tickets are $10 general admission and $5 for Wesleyan faculty and staff, as well as seniors, and available at 817-531-4211 or via the Theatre Wesleyan website. All Texas Wesleyan students can receive free tickets through the Student Theatrical Experience Fund (STEF).

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Wesleyan show promises laughter