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Little Lake's Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike 

It's a well-cast character comedy, with scenery-chewing opportunities for all

click to enlarge Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, at Little Lake Theater
  • Photo courtesy of James Orr
  • From left: Mary Liz Meyer; Art DeConciliis and Allison Cahill in Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, at Little Lake

Little Lake Theatre Co. luxuriates in the fun of Christopher Durang's 2013 Tony-winner Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike. The quirky if sometimes drawn-out comedy mixes Chekhovian atmosphere and references with Durangian irreverence and anger. Consider angst a given for both playwrights.

It's funny even if you don't know Chekhov's Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull, et al. But it helps. Directed by Little Lake's artistic director Sunny Disney Fitchett, Vanya is a well-cast character comedy, with scenery-chewing opportunities for all. Plot? Meh. The first three eponymous folks are middle-aged siblings, and the last-named is a young stud. Toss in a psychic cleaning lady and a starry-eyed Chekhovian ingénue. Soul-searching hilarity ensues.

Everybody shines, but it's hard not to admire the ever-versatile Mary Liz Meyer, who truly embodies the self-effacing Sonya. Her brief but successful transformation from frump to femme fatale is scrumptiously credible. And give a hand to Art DeConciliis for his 100th main-stage role with Little Lake and the fitting role of "sensible" Vanya. When he ultimately loses his calm, his rant is a joy to behold: the loss of articulate discussion and a shared popular culture, the futility of millennial multi-tasking and the ceremony of letter-writing from flowing cursive to stamp-licking. And so much more.

Ross Kobelak supplies most of the heavy physicality of the evening, strutting and posturing as Spike. Second for body English, Adrienne Fischer leaps and bounds as the multi-talented Cassandra. Setting the plot's necessary conflict in motion, Allison Cahill brings glamour as the movie star Masha, with counterpoint by Jocelyn Hyrb as the lovely innocent, Nina.

The costumes, lovely and otherwise, work to further define the characters. The design/tech crew of Martha Bell, Philip Irvin and Leigh Ann Frohnapfel add their discrete and discreet talents to Fitchett's production.

Poor Christopher Durang. He misses all that mundane Americana he used to make fun of. In Vanya, the erstwhile enfant terrible, now an established eminence, channels an old codger metaphorically yelling at the kids to get off his lawn. It's a beauty.

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