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The Daily Tar Heel

Tony Award-winning comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike opens tonight

I Am Human
I Am Human

CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story incorrectly identified the relation between the play's main characters. Vania, Sonia and Masha are siblings. The story has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

Presented by PlayMakers Repertory Theatre and written by Christopher Durang, the Tony Award-winning comedy takes theatrical farce to an unusual level with a combination of classic and modern components.

While the play and its writing are contemporary, the story draws several elements from the works of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, imitating his traditional style and structure.

“It’s very reminiscent of plays like ‘The Cherry Orchard’ and ‘Uncle Vanya’,” said director Libby Appel. “If you know his plays well, you’ll hear familiar dialogue. There’s fun in discovering that, although you don’t need to know a thing to find it funny.”

Appel has been directing plays for nearly 50 years and recently published a book of translated Chekov works. She said while working on every show is unique, working with this show and its cast has been a mirthful experience.

The show revolves around a dysfunctional American family that’s thrown into chaos when the eldest of three siblings returns to sell their estate. As things quickly spiral out of control, the characters descend into a frenzy.

“I think what’s really great about this particular play is that you get a seriously absurdist comedy with this real look into human interaction,” said actress and second year grad student Arielle Yoder. “Because this family dynamic is so easily recognized across the board, it’s something we can laugh at.”

Yoder plays Nina, the next door neighbor of the family and an aspiring actress. She said Nina personifies a positive and optimistic personality, acting as a breath of fresh air for the struggling siblings.

“Nina is kind of an old soul,” she said. “She’s very intuitive, very perceptive of the relationship dynamic with the characters.”

The play consists of six actors and only one set, making the show’s comedy more reliant on its wit than its spectacle.

“When I first read the play it really made me laugh, but was also touching” said Julia Gibson, actress and veteran PlayMaker’s performer. “I guess that’s why it was so successful. It’s fun, but seems to have a payoff in a deeper way as well.”

Gibson has performed in Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” on Broadway, as well as working in the theater community for years. She plays the character Sonia, who is the more downtrodden of the siblings.

“It’s fair to say Sonia’s depressed,” she said. “Even with the comedy, some of (her sadness) comes along, but she has her touching moments.”

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” rose to great prominence after winning the Tony Award for best play in 2013.

Appel said she has high expectations for how the play and cast will be received in Chapel Hill.

“This play, even with its classical roots, just tickles you with its interpersonal relationships with people.”

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