Reviews: “Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike” in Healdsburg and “Born Yesterday” in Sonoma

Siblings and significant others do battle in two comedies running now on North Bay stages.

Christi Calson

Healdsburg’s Raven Players take you to rural Pennsylvania where Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike gather at the family homestead. Vanya (Steven David Martin) and Sonia (Diane Bailey) have held down the family fort and taken care of their infirmed parents while sister Masha (Christi Calson) went off to be a big Hollywood star. Their psychic housekeeper Cassandra (Athena Gundlach) warns them of impending doom, and the next thing you know Masha returns with Hollywood him-bo Spike (Bill Garcia) on her arm with some bad news.

Christopher Durang’s comedic take-off on Chekhovian themes won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play and quickly became a staple of community theatres. Director Sandra Ish has a good cast running though their comedic paces on a nice set by Julie Raven-Smart. The Raven Players continue to up their game with improved technical elements.

The play is amusing, if a bit overlong, with the show’s highlight coming via a lengthy comedic monologue well-delivered by Martin on the drawbacks of modern technology.

Rating (out of 5): ★★★½

‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ runs through May 5 at the Raven Performing Arts Theater, 115 North St., Healdsburg. Friday–Saturday, 8 pm; Sunday, 2 pm. $10–$25. 707.433.6335.

What’s a theatre company to do with the exit of an actor in a key role deep into the rehearsal process? Sonoma Arts Live and director Carl Jordan had to deal with just that situation with their production of Garson Kanin’s 1946 comedy Born Yesterday.

David Abrams, Melissa Claire

Kanin’s tale of multi-millionaire junk dealer Harry Brock (Ken Bacon) and his mistress Billie Dawn (Melissa Claire) is experiencing something of a renaissance. Seems that a story about a crude, rude, ignorant Washington power-broker who eventually gets his comeuppance has a certain appeal with audiences these days.

It’s a good-looking show, with nice period costume work by Janis Synder and a well-appointed set designed by Jason Jamerson.

Bacon came into the production very late in the rehearsal process and it shows. Credit to him for doing as well as he did, but his tentativeness with lines really affected the show’s timing and limited rehearsal apparently led to little character development.

There’s good supporting work by Richard Kerrigan as Brock’s self-loathing legal counsel and David Abrams has distinct chemistry with Claire as her knight in shining armor.

Rating (out of 5): ★★½

‘Born Yesterday’ runs through May 12 at Andrews Hall, 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma. Thursday–Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday, 2pm. $25–$40. 866.710.8942.

Photos by Ray Maybry and Eric Chazankin

The reviews originally appeared in edited versions in the North Bay Bohemian.

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