Laughing at life’s absurdities

Dysfunctional siblings explore relationship in LU theatre’s latest production

Existentialism, jealousy and inferiority complexes consume three middle-aged siblings and a young boy-toy as they confront life’s misadventures and make peace with their choices in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”

The Lamar University department of theatre and dance will present Christopher Durang’s comedy, today, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Studio Theatre.

“This play has been on my radar since it was written in 2013,” Brian LeTraunik, director and assistant professor of theatre and dance, said. “There is a lot of emotion and humanity shown in this play which I think captures what (Durang) does best — write absurd plays with a human touch.”

LeTraunik describes the play as a masterful blend between comedy and insanity, with jokes that he believes will appeal to a college audience.

Freshman Lianna Meador, who plays Sonia, said the play represents how the set-in-their-ways characters adapt to sudden changes, like when Masha’s new, young, actor boyfriend steps onto the scene and forces Vanya and Sonia to examine their lives.

“This play is funny and eye-opening, and it brings about an understanding of how our parents and grandparents behave,” she said. “There is this whole generation that doesn’t understand us and we don’t understand them, but this play looks at that relationship and makes sibling relationships easier to comprehend.”

Sophomore Austin Jones, who plays Spike, said that the interactions between the characters shows an underlying dysfunction between the siblings, but his character’s sudden introduction to the group makes them see their flaws.

vanya1
Shelby Dryden, sitting, and Lianna Meador rehearse a scene from “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” Monday, at the Studio Theatre. UP photos by Noah Dawlearn.

Meador said the comedic aspect of the play will keep the audience entertained and invested in the story.“Spike does ridiculous things for attention,” he said. “He’s like bacteria — thriving wherever he lands. His ambitions to be a successful actor make him vain, but he’s actually a lovable person.”

“All of our characters have great lines, like my character has great deadpan humor,” she said. “It’ll be great to have an audience to laugh at our jokes.”

LeTraunik said “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” is hilarious and unique — a standout production by the department.

Jones said a lot of interesting events happen in the play.

“For people who don’t know what they play is about, there will be some surprises,” he said.

Meador said Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s writing (the inspiration for the names of Durang’s characters) helped her understand the connection of the characters to the storyline of the play.

“This play is obviously way more modern than what Chekhov wrote, but you can definitely pin point where the inspiration comes from,” she said.

LeTraunik said the great triumph of Durang’s play is his ability to write something that applies to both the 50-something-year-old siblings and the audience who will see the play.

“The comedy and dialogue is relatable,” he said. “I think people who come to see the show will definitely be able to put themselves in the characters’ shoes.”

The play contains strong language and adult situations.

Tickets are $7 for LU and LIT students, $10 for faculty and staff, seniors and for students, and $15 general admission. Tickets may be purchased at the box office, or reserved by phone at 880-2250. The box office accepts cash, checks, and all major credit/debit cards.

Story by Olivia Malick, UP staff writer

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