Middle-aged sibling rivalries, costumes from Snow White (the Disney version) and a zany prophetic maid are coming in TAPA’s newest comedy, Tony Award winning play “Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike,” currently running.
By Jordan Wolfe
Director Robert Buckingham, in his ninth directorial effort with TAPA in a decade, said “I’ve assembled really talented people giving 100 percent. This is a top quality show. It’s hilarious!”
Buckingham said he has created his most elaborate set, with the help of Richard Coon, Diane Kreider and Bob Riley. Taking place on the patio of a Pennsylvania farmhouse, the set crew has invoked the feeling of a lived-in home, complete with little decorative flourishes to compliment the stunning backdrop.
“The overall quality is really going to blow people away. The actors, the set, the costumes are all wonderful,” Buckingham said.
Of the six actors in the show, all are TAPA veterans with the exception of one actress making her TAPA debut.
“The play is about relationships, whether they are good, bad or indifferent,” Buckingham said. “The focus is on the dynamic between the three siblings. Two are rivals and one is the peacemaker.”
The siblings, Vanya (Chris Chiola), Sonia (Sarah Edwards) and Masha (Joni Sauer-Folger), reflect on the mid-life crises they are experiencing. Vanya and Sonia are forced to come to terms with their empty, hermit lives when their successful, self-absorbed, movie-star sister, Masha, brings home her new, young boy toy, aspiring actor Spike (Jordan Wolfe). Matters are further complicated by Cassandra’s (Anita O’Hagan) cryptic prophecies and the introduction of Masha’s biggest fan, girl-next-door Nina (Brianne Kephart).
Buckingham said, “The play has mild adult humor, but I don’t want that disclaimer to scare anybody.”
Diane Cross, first-time producer for the show, added, “It’s appropriate adult entertainment; it’s fun.”
Buckingham said he enjoys the uniqueness of the characters and how well-written they are.
Half of the cast agrees they are wildly different than their characters.
“Cassandra is a spastic voodoo lady from Louisiana,” Anita O’Hagan said of her character, the cleaning lady with a knack for prophecies. “She’s so different from me, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” She added she has family in Louisiana and calls her dad to help get into character.
Sporting an impressive beard he has grown for the role of Vanya, Chris Chiola said, “Oftentimes, you have to take on physical characteristics to help get into character.”
Chiola said his character’s mopiness, laziness and overall bitterness is a stark contrast to who he is as a person. Growing the beard helps portray Vanya’s personality, according to Chiola.
“Vanya has all the time in the world to shave, but he doesn’t. What does he do all day? He just wanders around. I don’t think he ever gets dressed.”
Another actor (attempting) to physically embody his character is Jordan Wolfe, who plays hunky, macho Spike. Wolfe said several characters comment on Spike’s fabulous physique and studliness throughout the play, which led him to commit to a workout routine and a protein-heavy diet to make his character more believable.
For Sauer-Folger, her role as Masha is familiar territory. “This is kind of like my very first role ever,” she said. “I was Mona Kent in ‘Dames at Sea,’ who is an aging Broadway star. This has come full circle to that.”
She added Masha, while self-absorbed, has good intentions. “People will enjoy watching her – not living vicariously through her. Everyone knows someone with a little Masha in her.”
Edwards, who plays adoptive sister Sonia, said acting was never something that appealed to her.
“I would have rather shot myself in the head then get on stage and act,” she said.
However, six months after the death of her partner, Jim, she ran into her old neighbors, Buckingham and Chiola, who encouraged her to audition for a show at TAPA.
“There is nothing that can go any more wrong than that,” she said, “So I thought ‘what the hell,'”
Edwards added she has enjoyed her time playing Sonia, “She actually has some really sharp little lines. She seems defeated, but her head rises above the water.”
Making her TAPA debut, recent THS graduate, Brianne Kephart said, “I am super grateful for the opportunity, since we no longer offer drama at the high school. It is definitely a fun new experience to help start me off.”
Kephart said her love for theatre helps her relate to her character, Nina, a young girl with dreams of being an actress.
“This is a true community effort, we all pitch in to create something,” Buckingham said, “I think that’s beautiful. We come from all walks of life and find a way to work together.”
“Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike,” sponsored by Bella Baker, Pelican Brewing Co. and Krazy Kat Publishing, opened June 24 and runs through July 10 at the Barn Community Playhouse at 1204 Ivy Avenue in Tillamook on the corner of Twelfth and Ivy, one block west of Highway 101. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 7 p.m. and Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. Doors open one half hour prior to curtain. Tickets are on sale now at Diamond Art Jewelers, located at 307 Main Avenue; for reservations, call 503-842-7940. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find TAPA on Facebook.