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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

UC Davis Theater and Dance presents its newest comedy


Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike brings humor, student acting, real-life drama

If you thought your family was crazy, wait until you see this one. Starting Feb. 23, the UC Davis Theater and Dance Program is performing Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, a Tony Award-winning comedy written by Christopher Durang.

Set in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the show centers around Masha, a middle-aged actress with a twenty-something-year-old boyfriend named Spike; her siblings Vanya and Sonia; their cleaning woman, Cassandra; and their neighbor’s niece, Nancy. The play takes several elements from Russian playwright Anton Chekhov and blends them to create a comedic and relatable piece.

“It is a really funny peek through a window at someone else’s family,” said Mindy Cooper, the director and Granada artist-in-residence for the UC Davis Theater and Dance Department. “It is an updating of a very old theme of a crazy family that are divine and hysterical and madcap, and taking it to today’s present day sense of humor.”

After taking care of their parents, Vanya and Sonia struggle with their roles in life and never fully grow up. Meanwhile, their sister Masha rushes back into their lives with her hot new man and tries to get them to sell the family house. Their sassy maid Cassandra has incredible insight, and Nancy offers wisdom beyond her years. Each character adds a little something to create a wickedly dramatic and funny story.

“The script is hilarious. It focuses on family issues. I relate to it because the sister Masha has left home to become an an actress […] I’m from Los Angeles, so the whole bougie, uppity manner resonates with me. The whole ridiculousness of stardom and getting lost in fame, you lose your roots which is what keeps you grounded,” said Terra Dao, a third-year design major and assistant lighting designer for the show. “It makes you question where you are from, who you are as a person, and rediscovering yourself.”

The show stars a variety of UC Davis students, ranging from PhD students who have worked in the field professionally to undergraduates with no previous acting experience.

“I thought it would be a really great piece for the talent pool here,” Cooper said.

The theater department allows many people from various backgrounds to display their talents; even former UC Davis football player George Lamen has a major role in the show.

“I went in there and auditioned. It was definitely a different experience. It was something I never did before,” said Lamen, a fifth-year psychology major. “Mindy gave me a callback. She told me to come back the next day and I read it. She said ‘thank you, you could keep that or either throw it away.’ So I thought I didn’t get the part […] then I got an email saying I got the part and I was pretty excited about it! I have developed a greater respect for actors and how hard they work.”

Lamen admitted that performing on stage is not unlike performing on the field.

“I used to play on the football team,” Lamen said. “It is definitely a flip, but at the same time, you have to listen to what your coach tells you to do, and at the same time create plays on your own […] You have to listen to what the director says, but also make your own moves.”

Audiences should expect absurdity, modern-day toils and a lot of shirtless scenes from Spike.

The show runs Feb. 23-25 and March 2-4 at 7 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Feb. 25 and March 4. Tickets for the show, located in the Main Theater connected to Wright Hall, can be purchased on the Theater and Dance Department’s website.
Written by: Myah Daniels — arts@theaggie.org


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