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'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike' hits TITG

Tony Award-winning comedy takes sharp, witty look at unhappiness

COURTESY PHOTOS: THEATRE IN THE GROVE - Masha (Jodi Harry) discusses her acting career with her brother Vanya (Aaron Morrow) in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, premiering at Theatre in the Grove April 15 at 7:30 p.m.Theatre in the Grove is continuing its 46th season with the comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play. The Broadway blockbuster was written by three-time Obie Award-winner Christopher Durang and opens April 15 at 7:30 p.m. at 2028 Pacific Avenue.

The story follows siblings Vanya and Sonia, who have spent their adult years trapped in mundane and uninspiring lives at their family’s cottage in picturesque Bucks County, Pennsylvania, caring for their ailing parents. Meanwhile, their self-involved sister Masha, a glamorous movie star, has traveled the world in decadent style. After their cleaning woman Cassandra warns Vanya and Sonia of impending doom, Masha arrives unannounced, accompanied by her hunky 20-something lover Spike, who sparks a friendship with the beautiful aspiring actress next door, Nina, much to Masha’s dismay. When Masha reveals that she plans to sell the house, long-repressed resentments bubble over in a weekend full of wild costume parties, voodoo dolls, global warming and broken dishes. The production takes place in 2013, making it a contemporary piece.

“It’s very well written, intelligent and silly all at the same time,” said veteran director Zachary Centers.

His parents, Ken and Pruella Centers, have been working with Theatre in the Grove, where they met, for over 30 years — Zachary has been surrounded by theatre for all of his life. Pruella stars as Sonia in the production.Sonia (Pruella Centers) and her brother, Vanya, have lived boring, unhappy adult, caring for their ailing parents.

Some of the show’s elements were derived from works of Anton Chekov, including several character names, the play’s setting in a cherry orchard, and the theme of the possible loss of an ancestral home. Chekhov was a Russian playwright and short story writer who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short fiction in history. He wrote comedies that were often dramatic.

“This play deals with depression and not being happy with life,” said Centers. “It has these strong themes, but it handles them in absolutely humorous ways. “There’s also a focus on frustration with change. I think the audience will be able to relate to the performance in many ways, since it’s rooted in realism, the best type of theatre.”

The production features Aaron Morrow as Vanya, Jodi Harry as Masha, Andy Roberts as Spike, Wendy Bax as Cassandra and Rachel May as Nina. Centers expressed his fortune that he was able to work with such a talented cast.

“Blocking and planning out how the scenes were going to work was one of the most interesting parts of this whole thing,” said Centers. “For example, Spike spends the majority of the show in his tight and bright underwear, and we have a scene where he does a reverse strip tease.”

The show contains mature themes and language and parental discretion is advised.Wendy Bax (right) plays a cleaning woman named Cassandra, who warns of impending doom, while Rachel May plays Nina, an aspiring actress.

Performances run April 15 through May 1, at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors (60 and over) and youths (17 and under). The box office is open from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and one hour before each performance. Tickets are also available at theatreinthegrove.org.

“I think people are really going to like this, the Forest Grove audience is getting more and more into new theatre and they’ve been great at supporting cultural growth within our community,” Centers said. “I want people to not be afraid of coming to this. It’s a really, really funny American comedy that everyone can relate to.”