Metro-East Living

Stage play finds humor in sibling rivalry and life’s disappointments

Jim Haverstick and Dyan Hansen rehearse a scene from “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” which will be performed March 9-12 and 16-19 at the Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon.
Jim Haverstick and Dyan Hansen rehearse a scene from “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” which will be performed March 9-12 and 16-19 at the Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon.

Brad Sanker went all out on the set for “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at the Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon.

The set designer and crew for the community theater group started with foam insulation and carved out a rustic lodge-style home in upstate Pennsylvania with massive stone and wood timbers. It reminds him of the TV show “Coach.”

“It’s not an exact replica, but it’s pretty close to the original set when (‘Vanya’) was on Broadway,” said Brad, 42, of Mascoutah, a logistics manager for Air Force Recruiting Service.

Most action takes place in the sun room, with an invisible wall that allows audience members to feel like they’re part of the family.

“I even put mulch down and planted plastic flowers,” Brad said. “It’s going to be a mess to clean up.”

“Vanya” is a comic take on Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s themes of failure and disappointment in life. It will be performed at 7:30 p.m. March 9-11, 2 p.m. March 12, 7:30 p.m. March 16-18 and 2 p.m. March 19.

It’s not an exact replica, but it’s pretty close to the original set when it was on Broadway. ... I even put mulch down and planted plastic flowers.

Brad Sanker on the set for “Vanya”

This is a second chance for metro-east residents to see the play, which was staged by Monroe Actors Stage Company in Waterloo last month.

“Siblings Vanya and Sonia have spent their adult years trapped in mundane lives at their family’s cottage, caring for their ailing parents,” according to the Looking Glass synopsis.

“Meanwhile, their self-involved sister, Masha, a glamorous movie star, has traveled the world in decadent style. After their soothsayer/cleaning woman, Cassandra, warns Vanya and Sonia of impending doom, Masha arrives unannounced, accompanied by her hunky, young lover, Spike.

“When Masha reveals plans that will upend the family, long-repressed resentments bubble over in a weekend full of wild costume parties, voodoo dolls and surprise romance.”

“Vanya” received six Tony nominations and won playwright Christopher Durang the award for best play in 2013. The original cast included David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen, Sigourney Weaver and Billy Magnussen.

“The humor is very smart, but it’s also a bit absurd,” said Jason Koonce, 30, of Belleville, who is directing the Lebanon production.

Many laughs revolve around Masha’s celebrity persona, which contrasts with Vanya and Sonia’s boredom and bitterness.

“One of the neighbors is throwing a costume party,” Jason said. “(Masha) is going as Snow White, and she wants her two siblings to go as dwarfs, so she can look more glamorous than them, and that causes some animosity.”

The six cast members are Stefanie Rickhoff as Masha, Jim Haverstick as Vanya, Suzanne Boyle as Sonia, Kole Schlich as boyfriend Spike, Cassie Gillespie as cleaning lady Cassandra and Dyan Hansen as the neighbor’s niece, Nina.

One of the neighbors is throwing a costume party. (Masha) is going as Snow White, and she wants her two siblings to go as dwarfs, so she can look more glamorous than them.

Jason Koonce on sibling rivalry in “Vanya”

Stefanie, 42, of Albers, a Wells Fargo mutual fund correction trader, has found her role challenging but fun.

“Masha is very different than I am in normal life,” she said. “Not only in her attitude. I hardly ever wear makeup, and I just throw my hair up. She’s very polished with full makeup, nails, hair and very smart-looking outfits. She’s a movie star.”

Stefanie describes the show as a “hilarious” and perceptive look at family dynamics, including siblings that are very different in some ways but similar in others.

“We have a fantastic cast,” she said. “There’s no one person who drags it down or outshines anyone else. We work very well together.”

Teri Maddox: 618-239-2473, @BNDwriter

At a glance

  • What: “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”
  • Where: Looking Glass Playhouse, 301 W. St. Louis St. in Lebanon
  • When: 7:30 p.m. March 9-11, 2 p.m. March 12, 7:30 p.m. March 16-18 and 2 p.m. March 19
  • Admission: $10 on Thursdays and Sundays or $12 on Fridays and Saturdays for adults; $9 or $11 for senior citizens (60 and older), students, military with ID and LGP members
  • Tickets: Reserve at www.lookingglassplayhouse.com to choose your own seats and pick up tickets at box office or print at home; or call 618-537-4962 and leave a message.
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