SNAP Productions latest offering is the new Christopher Durang comedy Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike. The show’s director, Daena Schweiger, took the time to talk with The Reader about the production.
Tell me about the unique challenges in directing this play. No doubt, Durang’s writing calls for its own unique interpretation.
Indeed it does…he really puts his own spin on family dynamics – so much of his writing is commentary on his own family dynamics growing up. This play, out of the ones I’ve read, seems a little more grounded in realism, which is why I suspect it gained the recognition it did. Of course, it too has it’s own absurdist twists to it, which did present a challenge. He was very specific in his notes about making these six people characters and not caricatures. It’s a fine line to walk. Is it too realistic – thereby losing some of the humor, or does it sway too much the other way, making them unrealistic? I hope I succeeded.
How did you approach the works of Chekhov in relation to the script?
The interesting thing about the Chekhov references is that you really don’t need to know them in order to enjoy the show. Durang spoke about taking the works of Chekhov and putting them into a blender – and it’s true. He makes obvious references to some of Chekhov’s works during the course of the play – the property has a cherry orchard, for example, the three siblings all have names from Chekhov plays, which is explained during the course of the evening, and Vanya writes a play that is a modern riff of Konstantin’s play in The Seagull, but other Chekhov references are rather subtle. For example, he substitutes a dead seagull for a wild turkey. If you are familiar with Chekhov’s works you’ll notice some of the same themes and the clever way in which Durang utilizes those themes.
The SNAP space is always a unique one to perform in for both its size and intimacy. How did the space dictate or alter the performance?
We’ve been very lucky to have designers over the years who have a real knack for working in the space, and this show is no exception. The play itself takes place in the morning room of a country home in Bucks County, PA. So our fabulous designer, Ronnie Wells, created a space that showcases the morning room, while also showing the back exterior of the house and a little path to an offstage pond. For a 55 seat theatre it’s really quite stunning, and one of the more detailed sets we’ve done. We pre-built the majority of the set during our previous production and then disassembled it and stored it while our sister theatre, The Shelterbelt, was in performance. We had one week from when they closed to reassemble everything, add additional painting detail, floor tile, and trim, and then the set dressing. It made for some really late nights, but it was worth it. We’ve received many compliments. And amazingly enough, you would think the actors would be cramped, but they move around quite comfortably in a morning room that is 10′ x 16′.
Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike runs through December 7th at Snap Production on 33rd and California St. More info can be found at www.snapproductions.com.
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