Stratford Players to perform comedy

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Called a “sublime state of hilarity” by New York Magazine, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” a Tony Award-winning comedy by Christopher Durang, opens at 7 p.m. Friday, July 25, at the Caine Learning Center, 54835 Pine Crest Ave.

It continues at 7 p.m. Saturday July 26, Friday, Aug. 1, Saturday, Aug. 2 and Saturday, Aug. 9, and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. July 27, Aug. 3 and Aug. 10.

Stratford Players Artistic Director Marsha Kennedy scored a producing coup by securing one of the first non-professional company licensing rights to this farcical riff on some of the characters from the plays of Anton Chekhov. Initially rebuffed in her attempt to get the rights and having been told to contact again after October 2014 when they could then “predict the play’s future availability,” Kennedy remained undaunted and persisted.

She wrote, “Our town is a mountain town so small that it does not have a stoplight. You have to really want to get here … All this is to say we won’t be taking audience away from any other theatre. People who live here would rather commit suicide than drive into L.A. Please let us do this play this summer.”

So, instead of some other oft-produced comedy, Stratford is mounting the very recent, very fresh and very funny “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” a nod to Chekhov’s characters’ dashed dreams, squandered hopes and unfulfilled longings that L.A. Times reviewer Charles McNulty called a giddy and hilarious farce.

Two dour siblings in their 50s and 60s have spent their lives caring for their aging parents at the family home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, while their sister traveled the world as a B movie queen. After the parents die, movie star Masha returns with boy toy Spike in tow with the intention to sell the house. Toss into the mix an in-your-face, tart-tongued, sooth-saying cleaning lady and a sweet young girl from next door, and the result becomes hilariously combustible.

At turns sweet, laugh-out-loud funny and profoundly moving, “Vanya” careens, cavorts and captivates. No audience can resist.

Directed by theater veteran Marshall Smith, VSMS stars Preston Sparks as Vanya, Debbie Overman as Sonia, Jeri Greene as Masha, Todd Fowler as Spike and Celeste Oliva as Nina.

Tickets for opening night are $12. All other performances are $15.

After each matinee, a Q and A will occur with producer, actors and director for audience members who wish to stay.

For more information, visit www.stratfordplayers.com.

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