Dysfunctional fun: ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ a hit at Gallery Players

Role call: The Gallery Players production has an ace cast in (from left) Vanya (Jon Krupp) and Sonia (Dawn Evans) and Spike (Zach Barela) and Masha (Jenny Lee Mitchell).
Photo by Steven Pisano

It’s another fine family mess!

Park Slope’s local theater company has taken an odd, spiky script about disappointment and dissatisfaction and produced a delightful, uproarious comedy.

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” at Gallery Players through March 8, is a play from Tony-award winning absurdist playwright Christopher Durang. It focuses on three siblings, each cursed with the name of a Chekhov character by their late professor parents.

Vanya (played by Jon Krupp) and Sonia (Dawn Evans) live together in the rural Pennsylvania home they grew up in. The pair lead a life of sad, quiet idleness after the death of their parents, interrupted only by weekly visits from their zany housekeeper Cassandra (Casterline Villar), who — like her mythological namesake — offers prophecies of the future that go ignored. 

Things kick into motion when the prodigal daughter Masha (Jenny Lee Mitchell), who left years ago to become a movie star, roars back into town for unspecified reasons, bringing along her new beau Spike (Zach Barela) — a beefy but dim-witted boytoy, who hilariously strips down to his underwear in his first appearance and remains in a state of undress for some time. 

Masha soon ropes her siblings into attending an apparently glitzy costume party — inexplicably being held in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania — convincing Vanya to play one of the Seven Dwarfs to her Snow White. 

The cast is excellent, bringing warmth and humor to the stories bleak situations, landing some awkward jokes with grace, and playing grandiose characters that fill the small Park Slope theater to the back row. As Sonia, Dawn Evans shines especially bright, offering a convincing portrayal of a woman determined to turn her life around after years of disappointments. Jon Krupp is expertly cast as Vanya, a man unwilling to let his bitterness betray his better instincts. 

The writing sputters at times — it doesn’t seem to know how to handle the absurdity of some of its situations, and an early line about Sonia pining after her brother (she’s adopted) is dropped and never mentioned again. But the cast breathes life into a sometimes stale script, turning what could have been a flop into a comedic triumph through sheer chemistry. 

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at Gallery Players (199 14th St. between  Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (212) 352–3101, www.galleryplayers.com). Thu–Fri at 8 pm. Sat at 2 pm and 8 pm; Sun at 3 pm through March 8. $25.