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Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

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Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play (and the Outer Critics Circle and the Drama League and the Drama Desk), Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a “sunny new play about gloomy people” (New York Times). Siblings Vanya and Sonia live out their days in an endless, bleak tableau in Bucks County, PA. All seems numbingly mundane until in sweeps hurricane Masha, their fading movie star sister, with her shiny new boy toy and a big announcement. Brimming with outrageous dialogue, Christopher Durang’s latest madcap masterpiece serves up family drama with comic savagery and poses the question: if you could choose your family, would you necessarily choose your family?

Photo of Christopher Durang
by Susan Johann


“The play, I do want to say, is a comedy – in an American way. Some of it ends up a little better than you might think for Chekhov. Now that I'm older, I don't like sending people home feeling too despairing, so, maybe for my own sake, I like to cheer things up a bit.”– Christopher Durang

Did You Know?

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is generously sponsored by Susan & Steven Bralove.


Jessica Frances DukesJESSICA FRANCES DUKES (Cassandra) returns to Arena Stage after making her debut earlier this season in King Hedley II. D.C. credits include Bootycandy, In the Next Room, Full Circle, Eclipsed, Fever/Dream, Antebellum and Starving (Woolly Mammoth Theatre, company member); The Conference of The Birds (Folger Theatre); The Piano Lesson (Olney Theatre); Passing Strange and Caroline, or Change (Studio Theatre); Trip to Bountiful and Permanent Collection (Round House); Jitney (Ford's Theatre); Spunk (Tribute Productions, Helen Hayes nomination); The Bluest Eye and Insurrection: Holding History (Theater Alliance) and more. Regional credits include Beneatha's Place and Clybourne Park (Centerstage); Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies (The Second City); Stick Fly (Arden Theatre); A Raisin in the Sun and The Piano Lesson (Geva Theatre); The Piano Lesson (Indiana Rep); Trip to Bountiful (Cleveland Playhouse) and more. Off-Broadway credits include Bootycandy (Playwrights Horizons). TV credits include The Good Wife (CBS) and A Raisin in the Sun Revisited (PBS). MFA from Catholic University of America.

Sherri EdelenSHERRI L. EDELEN (Sonia) returns to Arena Stage after performing in My Fair Lady and Cabaret. Other local appearances include Momma Rose in Gypsy (Signature Theatre) and the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet (Folger Theatre). Both performances earned her Helen Hayes Award nominations. She received two Helen Hayes Awards for Side Show and Les Misérables at Signature Theatre and the Barrymore Award for Margaret Johnson in The Light in the Piazza at the Philadelphia Theatre Company. Regional appearances include the Shakespeare Theatre Company (Design for Living); Olney Theatre (How to Succeed…), Fusion Theatre (Outside Mullingar), Stages St. Louis (Annie Get Your Gun); Arden Theatre Company (Caroline, or Change) and the Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration (Sunday in the Park with George and Merrily We Roll Along).

Jefferson FarberJEFFERSON FARBER (Spike) is thrilled to be making his Arena Stage debut. Other Washington area credits include Shakespeare’s R&J at Signature Theatre (adapted and directed by Joe Calarco), Metamorphoses at Constellation Theatre Company, All’s Well that Ends Well at Shakespeare Theatre Company and Genesis Reboot at Synetic Theatre. He has also performed regionally in Breaking the Code at Barrington Stage Company. Jefferson spent three seasons with the Colorado Festival of World Theatre studying and working alongside such Tony Award winners as Stephen Sondheim, Sir Peter Shaffer, Zoe Caldwell and Patti LuPone. His TV credits include Killing Kennedy and the Netflix series House of Cards (dir: Robin Wright).

Grace GonglewskiGRACE GONGLEWSKI (Masha) is thrilled to be making her D.C. debut at the renowned Arena Stage. Off-Broadway she played Joan in The Guys opposite Tom Wopat at The Flea Theatre, directed by Tommy Kail. Grace hails from Philadelphia where she works regularly. Favorite Arden Theatre roles (among 25 played) include Hedda Gabler, Maggie the Cat, Candida and Josie Hogan. Other highlights include The Heiress at Walnut Street Theatre; Body Awareness at Wilma Theatre; Laramie Project at Philadelphia Theatre Company; Design for Living at Delaware Theatre Company; Private Lives at Cape May Stage; 9 seasons with The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival; and a tour of Ireland with Interact Theatre. Grace garnered four Barrymore Awards, including the F. Otto Haas Award for an emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist, and several Barrymore nominations. She is the voice of America’s Best Eyewear, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and many banks, casinos, politicians and hospitals around the country.

Eric HissomERIC HISSOM (Vanya) is honored to be making his Arena Stage debut. His previous appearances in D.C.-area theater includes the Tiger in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo at Round House, Doctor Givings in The Vibrator Play at Woolly Mammoth and several roles at the Folger, including Cyrano and Bernard Nightingale in Arcadia, for which he won a Helen Hayes Award. Eric did the national tour of The Thirty-Nine Steps, playing one of the schizophrenic clowns. He has worked in regional theaters all over the country and was a company member for many years at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, where he also directed, taught and ran the new play festival, Playfest. Eric has done a little film work, including an appearance as the hapless hotel clerk who gets knocked out by Denzel Washington in Out of Time. He has an MFA from the Florida State/Asolo Conservatory.

Rachel Esther TateRACHEL ESTHER TATE (Nina) is taking the Arena Stage for the first time and feeling so blessed to do so. Rachel worked most recently with Bedlam Off-Broadway in the critically acclaimed Saint Joan and Hamlet. Other New York credits include the world premiere of Blood Privilege and the New York premiere of Elephant's Graveyard. She has worked regionally with The Mirror Repertory (Emily in Our Town) and Actor's Theatre of Charlotte (Rocky Horror Show). She sends her biggest thanks and hugs to A, E & M.


CHRISTOPHER DURANG (Playwright) is one of our most beloved and widely produced contemporary American playwrights. He has received multiple Obies, a Tony Award nomination and a Tony win for his work, among many other accolades. Christopher is the recipient of the 2012 PEN Master American Dramatist Award and is a 2013 inductee to the Theater Hall of Fame. Among his best known plays are Sister May Ignatius, Beyond Therapy, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, Laughing Wild, Betty’s Summer Vacation, the Pulitzer Prize-finalist Miss Witherspoon and Why Torture Is Wrong. Characterized by a combination of absurdist humor and raging satire, his style has influenced an entire generation of writers. But even the anger of an enfant terrible must recede and he has now given us what is arguably his most enjoyable and commercially viable comedy to date: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was the winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play, Best Play from the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle, the Drama League Award and the Off-Broadway Alliance Award.

AARON POSNER (Director) is honored to be making his Arena debut. Aaron is a freelance director and playwright, the founding Artistic Director of The Arden Theatre Company and an Associate Artist at the Folger Theatre. He has won numerous awards as both a director and playwright including an Outer Circle Critics Award, The John Gassner Award, a Theatre Bay Area Award, three Barrymore Awards and Helen Hayes Awards as director or playwright four of the last 10 years. His published and produced plays include Stupid Fucking Bird, Life Suck or The Present Ridiculous, My Name Is Asher Lev, The Chosen, Who Am I This Time? (And Other Conundrums of Love), Sometimes A Great Notion, A Murder, A Mystery & A Marriage and others. Aaron has directed more than 150 productions at major regional theaters across the country including Actor's Theatre of Louisville, The Alliance, American Players Theatre, The American Repertory Theatre, Cal Shakes, Folger Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, Portland Center Stage, Seattle Rep, Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, Theatre J, Woolly Mammoth and more. Aaron is an Eisenhower Fellow, a graduate of Northwestern University, is from Eugene, Oregon and lives locally with his wife, the excellent actress Erin Weaver, and his amazing daughter, Maisie.

DANIEL CONWAY (Set Designer) returns to Arena Stage after designing last year’s production of Love in Afghanistan directed by Lucie Tiberghien. Recent projects include The Tempest, directed by Teller and Aaron Posner, American Repertory Theatre and South Coast Rep; Elmer Gantry directed by Eric Schaeffer and Sunday in the Park, directed by Matt Gardiner, The Signature Theatre; Harvey, directed by K.J. Sanchez, Milwaukee Rep; By the Way Meet Vera Stark, directed by Lucie Tiberghien, The Julliard School; and Rapture, Bliss, Burn, Roundhouse Theatre directed by Shirley Serotsky. Past productions: The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Stephen Rayne, The Shakespeare Theatre; Tribes, directed by Vincent Lancisi, Everyman Theatre; and The Aliens, directed by Lila Neugebauer, The Studio Theatre. Nominated twelve times, he received the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Design twice, most recently for Stunning, directed by Anne Kaufmann, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

PALOMA YOUNG (Costume Designer) makes her Arena Stage and Washington debut with Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike. On Broadway she won a Tony award for Peter and the Starcatcher. Her designs for the Off-Broadway Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (Kazino) received a Lucille Lortel Award and a Drama Desk Award nomination. Paloma previously worked with Aaron Posner for his recent adaptation of The Tempest with Teller at American Repertory Theatre, The Smith Center and South Coast Repertory Theatre. Other work in New York includes The Patron Saint of Sea Monsters and Fly By Night at Playwrights Horizons; Wildflower at Second Stage, Recall with Colt Coeur and Brooklyn Babylon for the BAM NextWave Festival. Paloma has also worked at Berkeley Repertory, South Coast Repertory, La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, California Shakespeare Theatre, Hand2Mouth, Actors Theatre of Louisville and Mixed Blood among others.

ROBERT PERRY (Lighting Designer) is pleased to be making his debut with Arena Stage. Other Washington designs include Coriolanus at the Shakespeare Theatre Company (Michael Kahn, director). Off-Broadway credits include the recent World Premiere of Lost Lake for Manhattan Theatre Club (Dan Sullivan, director); Crowns at 2nd Stage for which he won the Vivian Robinson Audelco Award; Boston Marriage at the Public Theater; Reefer Madness at the Variety Arts The­atre; Kingdom of Earth for The Drama Dept; and numerous shows at the Atlantic Theater Company including An Adult Evening with Shel Silverstein, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, The Hothouse and The Water Engine for which he received a Drama Desk nomi­nation. Other regional designs include the Goodman Theatre, LaJolla Playhouse, Chicago Shakespeare, Dallas Theater Center, California Shakespeare Festival, Triad Stage, Hartford Stage, Philadelphia Theatre Company, the McCarter and Yale Rep. Robert is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois.

JAMES SUGG (Composer/Musical Supervisor) returns to Arena Stage after his sound designs of Mother Courage and Her Children, Good People, The Chosen and Long Day’s Journey into Night. He has previously been seen in Washington performing and designing at Woolly Mammoth (performing Mr. Burns and Hell Meets Henry Halfway and designing The Vibrator Play), performing Shakespeare and designing at the Folger Theatre (Sir Andrew in Twelfth Night, various roles in Melissa Arctic, composition for Orestes) and sound designing at Studio Theatre (Rainpan 43’s All Wear Bowlers; Amnesia Curiosa; and Machines, Machines…). James is a 15-year member of Pig Iron Theater Company, with whom he has created 20 original pieces. He is also the composer of the music theater pieces A Murder, a Mystery and a Marriage (book by Aaron Posner); The Sea; and Cherry Bomb (book by Jen Childs).

ANNE NESMITH (Wig Designer) is pleased to return to Arena Stage following Fiddler on the Roof and last season’s Smokey Joe's Café, Mother Courage and Her Children and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. She also designed Other Desert Cities, My Fair Lady, Mary T. & Lizzy K. and The Music Man for Arena Stage. Her recent work includes Così fan tutte in Nishinomiya, Japan, Falstaff for Saito Kinen Festival (Matsumoto, Japan), Giulio Cesare at Wolf Trap Opera and Ford’s Theatre’s The Widow Lincoln. Her designs have been seen at the Kennedy Center, Opera Philadelphia, Signature Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company and Lyric Opera of Baltimore. Anne was the resident wig/makeup designer for the Baltimore Opera and has constructed wigs for Scooby Doo! Live tour and the Asian tour of 42nd Street. Her work has also been seen in Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery programs, Investigation Discovery and the Military Channel and the U.S. Army’s tour Spirit of America.

Photo Gallery


“A Ridiculous Amount of Fun!” Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Arena Stage

This show is getting huge laughs and major kudos from audiences and critics. Don't miss the funniest show in town.

What's the Buzz? Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

We asked the audience–once they settled down from all that laughing–what they thought of #VanyaSoniaMashaSpike. Funny, we think they liked it.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike – Behind the Curtain

Go behind the curtain with the irreverent and wacky troupe of actors from Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Arena Stage.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Arena Stage

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Post-Show Discussions

April 15 at noon
April 21 at noon
April 23 at 8:00 p.m.
April 28 at 7:30 p.m.
April 29 at noon

Behind the scenes

Welcome to Off Book – Arena Stage’s online forum featuring American artists at the top of their game, talking about what they do best. Actors, directors, writers, dramaturgs, designers – unscripted and unrehearsed.

My inspiration was realizing that I was the age of the older characters in Chekhov. Also, I live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in an old farm house on a hill that actually looks out on a pond where the blue heron comes—although it hasn’t been for quite a while so that’s disturbing. And my house in the country made me think of how, in Chekhov—particularly in The Seagull and Uncle Vanya—there are people living in the county who are unhappy and jealous of people who live in the city. And so I was thinking to myself that where I live now reminded me of those bitter people in the country and I decided I wanted to write something like that, set it in the present and in a house like mine—though I’m happy to say it is not autobiographical. I wanted it to be a comedy and I wanted it not to be so connected to Chekhov that you had to know Chekhov in order to enjoy it. So even though my impulse was Chekhov, the play took on its own trajectory. The other thing that occurred in writing the play was that it really became a story about siblings. Read More

Durang’s work is very human and has a really sweet heart at the center of it, and a really smart perspective. I certainly want it to be funny. I would say though, as a director of comedy for the last ten years—and this is an interesting thing that happens—when I started directing comedy I think my goal was to just get every laugh I could. At some point I realized, once I had the right cast, I could get X amount of laughs, but I didn’t have to get them all. If you’re willing to trade off a third of your laughs in the first half hour of a comedy, if you’re willing to leave those on the table, you can get X amount more of humanity and connection and you can come to really care about the people. Then there’s plenty of funny left, and you have a more human experience. We’ll be tipping towards the human, towards the broken, towards the hopeful, towards those things you associate more with Chekhov. Read More

All the discoveries made in the rehearsal room—the table work and investigation, the blocking and script work, the character and relationship development—it gets taken to a whole new level when the actors move onto stage and the set, lights, costumes and sound are added. Adding the technical elements is like going from black and white to color. Anything is possible and anything could happen. In the heightened world of Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, director Aaron Posner and his design team turn the Fichandler Stage into a pastoral summer home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Read More

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang is one of the most produced plays across the country right now and is one of several Chekhov-related productions in the area this season. We are having a Chekhov moment, but that is not altogether surprising. Chekhov understands the tensions of modern life; he taps into enduring themes of the frustration and boredom with the quotidian, the longing for more or what might have been, and the beauty and dignity of that everyday life, too. In Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Durang interweaves his own hilarious sense of the absurd with Chekhovian frustrations and longings. Read More


Audio Described

Beginning with the April 10, 2015 performance at 8:00 PM all remaining performances will be audio described.

Open Captioned

April 22, 2015 – 7:30pm
April 30, 2015 – 8:00pm

For complete information on Accessibility Programs at Arena Stage, click here.

Audio Description and Open Caption notes