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Sibling Send-Up is Well-Oiled Comedy Machine

Reviewed by Joan Tupponce


Joe Pabst as Vanya and Debra Wagoner as Sonia. Photo by Aaron Sutten.
Joe Pabst as Vanya and Debra Wagoner as Sonia. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

Siblings don’t have to look alike, think alike, or even enjoy each other’s company. At least they don’t if their names are Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike – the Tony award winning comedy playing now at Virginia Rep’s November Theatre.

Written by Christopher Durang, the witty play first focuses on brother and sister Vanya and Sonia who have no real goal in life other than to sit around and brood over their lackluster existence. Sonia, who wallows in depression, whines about their state of affairs while an unmotivated Vanya takes critical aim at Sonia’s actions. The two seem to perk up when their sister Masha, an actress and seasoned drama queen, arrives for a quick visit with her latest boy toy, Spike, who likes to show off his physique by stripping down to his skivvies.

During the production, they are joined by their sassy housekeeper, Cassandra, who practices voodoo and spouts off wacky predictions, and a visitor Nina, a wannabe actress that catches Spike’s attention.

Liz Earnest as Nina, David Pope as Spike, Debra Wagoner as Sonia. Photo by Aaron Sutten.
Liz Earnest as Nina, David Pope as Spike, Debra Wagoner as Sonia. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

Masha, who owns the Bucks County, Pennsylvania, home where Vanya and Sonia live, has been footing the bills for her siblings ever since their parents passed away. She plans to announce that she is selling the home, but changes her mind after attending a costume party with her siblings.

Liz Earnest, who plays a very excited Nina, and David Pope, who takes on the role of the self-absorbed Spike give the show a memorable zest and exuberance.

Ciara McMillian takes command of her role as the crazed Cassandra who has visions at the most inappropriate times.

The show’s three leads – Joe Pabst, who plays Vanya, Debra Wagoner who portrays Sonia, and Susan Sanford as Masha – work together like a well-oiled machine. And why not? They are three of Richmond’s top actors, especially when it comes to comedy. And Wagoner and Pabst are a real-life married team. In Vanya and Sonia, their talent shines through, especially as they prepare for the evening’s costume party. Get ready to laugh! Recommended for fourteen and up.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike runs through May 17 at November Theatre. For showtimes and ticket information, click here.


An award-winning writer based in Richmond, Joan Tupponce is a parent, grandparent, and self-admitted Disney freak. She writes about anything and everything and enjoys meeting inspiring people and telling their stories. Joan’s work has appeared in RFM since the magazine’s first issue in October 2009. Look for original and exclusive online articles about Richmond-area people, places, and ideas at Just Joan: RVA Storyteller.

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