THE Ustinov Studio has another triumph on its hands with the UK premiere of Christopher Durang’s award-winning comedy, which has Chekhov’s plays at its core.
Best known for his absurdist plays, Durang brilliantly weaves academic theatrical parents, Chekhovian motifs and the fears and certainties of getting old into the lives of three siblings, Sonia the put-upon, Vanya the disappointed and Masha the outwardly successful. Then he throws in Cassandra, a psychic cleaner whose prophesies are seldom believed.
Set in the family house in Pennsylvania on a day when Cassandra warns of more than usual doom, it opens as long-time companions Vanya and his adopted sister Sonia argue over coffee and wait for the blue heron. Then Sonia remembers that Vanya’s sister Masha, a famous film actress, is coming to stay.
Her arrival, with toyboy Spike, starts the chaos predicted by Cassandra, exacerbated by the arrival of pretty neighbour Nina, who is determined on a serious career on the stage.
It’s a brilliant play, full of lines from Chekhov for the afficionados, as well as keen observations of 21st century life, of politics and nostalgia and broad, silly comedy. The director is Walter Bobbie, best known for his Broadway production of Chicago, one of the Great White Way’s most successful shows ever.
The stunning cast is led by the amazingly versatile Janie Dee as Masha, with Mark Hadfield as Vanya, mirroring his namesake with a shatteringly-delivered long speech, and Rebecca Lacey as the gloomy Sonia, suddenly finding a life force by one kind action.
Lewis Reeves flaunts it as the callow Spike, with Michelle Asante majestic as the clever Cassandra and Aysha Kala as a charming Nina, reflecting all Chekhov’s ingenues.
It’s very funny, thought-provoking, electrifyingly performed and well worth a trip to Bath before the end of the run on 6th July.