Playwright Christopher Durang, now 66, has kept audiences laughing with his absurdist, provocative writing. His most recent work, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, winner of the 2013 Tony and Drama Desk awards for best play, has been the most produced play on American stages for two seasons with nearly 40 theaters presenting it.
If you’re a devoted theatergoer, Durang’s title probably reminds you of Anton Chekhov. That’s intentional, although knowing the works of the Russian playwright is not a prerequisite. Durang’s Vanya, Sonia and Masha are mismatched siblings, named by academic parents who had a yen for community theater. Now late in middle age, Vanya and Sonia continue to live in rural eastern Pennsylvania on the family’s farm with a few cherry trees. (Durang constantly drops reminders of Chekhov, dollops of amusement for anyone who recognizes them.) Their lives have some angst and ennui, but they aren’t doing anything about it.
That’s in part because sister Masha has had a successful career as a movie star in forgettable movies, enabling her to pay their bills. But when she drops in for a weekend with her latest stud muffin, Spike, the contrast between her life and theirs becomes both evident and comic.