November 28, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 47

'Vanya' a humorous look at gloomy people

Lynn Canal Community Players will stage the Tony Award-winning comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” Dec. 6-8 at the Chilkat Center auditorium. Evening shows start at 7 p.m. and Sunday’s matinee is at 2 p.m.

Described as a light-hearted look at dark personalities, the play written by Christopher Durang is the story of wealthy siblings who’ve never grown up or moved out of their family home, and their real and imagined dramas. It draws on elements from the plays of Anton Chekhov.

“The characters are all fun and very unique. It’s the contrast between all the characters that makes it interesting,” said actor Ryan Staska, who plays Vanya, a middle-aged gay man who shares the place with his sister, Sonia, played by Judith McDermaid, and Cassandra, an eccentric maid played by Amanda Stossel.

The siblings’ idyll is disturbed by the arrival home of their sister Masha, the family’s breadwinner, a fading, B-movie star played by Cheryl Mullins. She shows up with her boy toy Spike, a younger, wannabe actor and braggart. A fifth role, of Nina, a neighbor girl who meets the foursome, is played by Tara Bicknell.

Director Tod Sebens said he’s not disclosing the identity of the actor playing Spike, leaving it as a surprise for the audience.

Sebens said he chose the play because he liked the script. “It’s a well-written comedy all the way through. People should come if they want a good comedy and to laugh a bunch,” he said.

Actor Staska said interesting moments in his performance as Vanya include a physical attraction to Spike, then later, a tirade against Spike that becomes an indictment of pop culture.

“The rant was fun to do because I get to delve into the culture of the older generation. Before (doing the play) I didn’t know a lot about what the rant was about,” including the history of Tommy Frank, a Walt Disney movie star and closeted gay.

Because Vanya is a gay character who has never had sexual relations of any kind, portraying his attraction to Spike was interesting, Staska said. “He’s kind of in that neutral zone of not knowing. Because he has no expectations of what it’s like to be with a guy or a girl, he acts in a way that’s totally brand new.”

Staska, who came up through Haines High School’s Drama, Debate and Forensics program, said it’s great to be on the stage again. He played Dr. John Seward in LCCP’s “Dracula” several years ago, but has since served as backstage manager.

Mullins, who made her local debut in last year’s “Dixie Swim Club,” said she expects audience members will be able to relate to the play’s portrayal of family dynamics, as well as the eccentricities of the play’s characters, including Masha’s.

“I’m all about drama. And when the world doesn’t revolve around me, I don’t understand it,” she said. “I also can’t understand why (the siblings) might be a little bitter toward me.”

“The play mirrors people’s families a lot. It’s about getting older and dealing with change, and how we deal with family relationships… and the things that hit us in life,” Mullins said.

Mullins said she’s already heard feedback from residents excited that LCCP is staging a comedy. “I think this time of year, people want to laugh.”

Director Sebens said the content of the play is equivalent to PG-13. He directed two local plays last year, “Dixie Swim Club” and “Dinner with Friends.”