DOVER — “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” which opens in Dover tonight, is a comedy — “but it has its tender moments,” said director Kevin Smith.
The Kent County Theatre Guild’s newest production is a play written by Christopher Durang, which revolves around the relationships of three middle-aged single siblings: Vanya, Sonia and Masha.
Their parents — college professors — named them after characters from Russian playwright and author Anton Chekhov’s works.
And although the play doesn’t require familiarity with Chekhov, it is seeded with light-hearted references to his works throughout, Mr. Smith said.
Vanya, the brother, and Sonia, the younger sister, live together in their parents’ home near a cherry orchard, while their movie star sister Masha pays the bills.
In the play, Masha breezes in for a weekend visit with her boy-toy, Spike, in tow.
“Basically they spend a weekend together, ironing out things among them,” Mr. Smith said.
“And by the end of the show things are pretty much ironed out, but there are some difficulties they have to overcome.”
Patti Gatto, who plays Masha, said that audience members will recognize their own family in the story. Everyone feels like they’re “the one” to shoulder the burden.
“It’s not that there’s always one,” said Mike Polo, who plays Vanya.
“It’s that everyone feels they’re carrying an unfair share of the burden and they resent the others. And that’s typical.”
Mr. Polo described his character as “a peacemaker and a caretaker” — a man who has lost his purpose in life.
“He’s searching a little bit but given his age, I think he feels that life has passed him by,” he said.
As a show with a small cast — there are only six characters — Mr. Smith said the play was his choice to put on the guild’s schedule.
“It is a good play. It has interesting characters. They are, I think nicely crafted by the author, I don’t take credit for that,” he said.
“And it’s a fun play.”
Along with Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike, added to the mix of characters is the neighbor’s pretty niece Nina, who provokes Masha’s jealousy. Then there is Cassandra, who cleans house, and, true to her classical namesake, is prone to dire prophecies that no one believes.
And while the characters struggle and learn to work together, there are plenty of laughs.
“It’s a comedy. A hilariously funny comedy,” Ms. Gatto said.
“Where else would you spend two and half hours on a Friday, Saturday night? Go to dinner and see a comedy.”
The play premiered at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey in 2012, followed by an off-Broadway production later the same year.
In 2013, it transferred to Broadway. Among other awards, the production won the Tony for Best Play and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play.
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” runs through May 23 at the Patchwork Playhouse, 140 Roosevelt Ave., Dover.
Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with a Sunday matinee May 17 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $18 and $16 for senior citizens, active military members and full-time students. They’re available online at www.kctg.org or by calling (800) 838-3006.