Zany comedy starts Arizona Theatre Company season

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Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Charles Janasz (left) and Joshua James Campbell (right) perform in Arizona Theatre Company’s production “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” The production runs from Sept. 13 through Oct. 4 at the Temple of Music and Art.

Playwright Christopher Durang certainly has his own voice, and he certainly displays it well in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” Arizona Theatre Company kicks off its annual season this Saturday with a staging of Durang’s Tony Award-winning play.

Durang’s style is original, outrageous, wildly theatrical and connected to a modern sensibility. While the characters act out a more or less conventional story, the play possesses a comic awareness that is boisterous and untamed.

“You will laugh and laugh a lot,” said David Ira Goldstein, the artistic director of ATC. “But you will also love these characters and find them recognizable.” Goldstein said he always hopes for a playwright who uses a singular, individual voice.

Durang’s play follows Vanya and his adopted sister Sonia, who live peacefully in the Pennsylvania farmhouse where they grew up, while their sister Masha travels around the world as a movie star. Just after their cleaning woman, Cassandra, expresses concern about terrible events in their future, Masha returns for an impromptu visit with her young boyfriend, Spike, and instigates a memorable weekend that comes to a boil of competition, guilt and commotion.

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Mixing Chekhov, a classical writer, with present-day style, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” is a charmingly quirky, season opening affair. Director Joel Sass, a guest artist with a reputation for comedy, describes the play as being intelligent with a funny twist.

Sass said he feels optimistic about the younger members of the cast.

“[They] are bright, experienced people who can hold their own with those who have been doing this for over 30 years and worked all over the world,” he said.

According to ATC’s media contact, Steve Carr, ATC is the state’s only member of the League of Resident Theatres, the largest professional theater association in the U.S. Due to the theater’s size, it operates under an equity contract with its actors, meaning they are all professional and willing to dedicate their careers to putting on excellent performances.

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” sends a message to “always hope,” Sass added. The play touches those who are just starting out and embracing change, as well as those who have maybe passed the midway point and are coping with other issues.

“ATC has always tried to be a meeting place for a broad, diverse audience,” Goldstein said. “We do a wide range of works from classics to new plays and always include comedies, dramas and musicals.”

This particular performance appeals to all types of people — from young, hip students who appreciate the performing arts to older theatergoers who appreciate more classical works. The show does contain strong language, with a total running time of 2 hours and 30 minutes, including intermission.

Ticket prices go from $32 to $67. Discounted tickets are available for active military and seniors. A $10 student rush ticket pricing is now offered for all performances. Tickets for a “Pay What You Can” performance on Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. go for a suggested donation of $10; they must be purchased at the Temple of Music and Art box office starting one hour before curtain.

ATC offers accessibility services for supporters with disabilities during select performances. Audio Description provides patrons with vision loss a running audio description of the movement and happenings on stage through an infrared broadcast system. An ASL-interpreted performance is offered on Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m.

—Follow Kacie Claudel @DailyWildcat


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