The Brooke Hills Playhouse production of Christopher Durang's Tony Award-winning comedy, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," posed some special challenges for both the actors and the director, according to Diana Mendel of Wellsburg, who directed the show.
"Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" runs for a final weekend today and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Reservations are available by calling the Playhouse at 304 737-3344.
The comedy centers around siblings Vanya and Sonia, their movie star sister, Masha, and Masha's latest boy-toy, Spike. Matters are complicated by Cassandra, a maid with psychic powers and Nina, a pretty young actress.
Mendel noted that the main challenge to the actors comes from Durang's fast-paced and funny script, "The cast has to work closely together and listen to one another," Mendel said, emphasizing that " pacing is important." She noted that the script also has "...many nuances and much layering."
Mendel believes her cast is up to the challenges posed by the script. "I am extremely blessed to have such a talented cast," she said. "All of my actors are very gifted in understanding the characters they play," she added.
Speaking of Playhouse and area community theater regulars Susan L. Stepputtis of St. Clairsville (Masha) and Walt Warren (Vanya) and Sue-Beth Warren of Wheeling (Sonia), Mendel said they "...are such veterans, and their performance skills are laudable," adding that "Every gesture, expression, vocal emphasis, movement is on point."
Mendel went on to offer the opinion that Mason Barnhart of Wellsburg, who plays Spike, "...is amazing in his ability to memorize quickly and take direction easily; the depth of his character grew in every rehearsal." As for the youngest member of the cast, Sierra D. Mortimer of Weirton, who has the role of the ingnue actress, Nina, Mendel observed that "Sierra brings such a sweet, innocent, luminous quality to her character."
Mendel herself had to step into the role of the psychic maid, Cassandra, when the actress originally cast in the role had to withdraw for personal reasons. She admitted that "My attention definitely was divided between directing and acting," during the rehearsal period, and that she did not like the fact "...that my focus couldn't be 100 percent with either role."
On the positive side Mendel noted that "...the part of Cassandra isn't too large, so that helps." She added that acting also informs her directing. "I am now relating to all of the concerns and worries my actors go through as well as my directorial responsibilities with props, lighting, sound cues, and so forth," she said, adding that "I would not like to be in this position again."
The Playhouse's next main stage production will be the John Kander-Fred Ebb-Bob Fosse classic musical comedy, "Chicago," July 11-12 and 18-19 at 8 p.m. and July 13 and 20 at 2 p.m.
Patrons may keep up with events by the Playhouse and its parent organization, the Brooke County Arts Council, by visiting their website at www.brookehillsplayhouse.com or by going to their Facebook page.