Vanya and Sonia and the benefit of the actors fully settling into the show (major spoilers)
Last Edit: mikem 11:25 am EDT 04/10/21
Posted by: mikem 11:22 am EDT 04/10/21

Lincoln Center's free stream of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" ends tomorrow, and I finally saw it yesterday. I loved the show with its original cast, but I think the material's a bit tricky to pull off successfully. I saw a local production that was okay, but just kind of lay there.

I agree with a prior commenter who said he loved the show live but only liked the streaming version. Although the cast had already done the show at the McCarter Theater in Princeton for 5 or 6 weeks, this was filmed in the first week of NYC previews, and the performances are not yet modulated to perfection. The audience is also dead, which doesn't help.

Kristine Nielsen in particular hasn't found all the nuances for her character. The Phone Call is more matter-of-fact here than it became, but a lot of the impact of the Phone Call scene comes from watching the prior 90 minutes of the play and the audience really understanding the character and why this phone call is so important. The first time I saw the show was about 2 months after this was filmed, and the Phone Call scene was a masterpiece -- funny, touching, and heartbreaking. I saw the show 3 times in NYC, and each time, there was a significant audible audience reaction when Nielsen first turns down the date. The first time, an audience member said regretfully, "oh no..." into the silence, and I remember thinking, "I feel exactly the same way." You're not surprised she turns down the date, but you really, really wish she would reach out and take a chance on life. In the streaming version, there is no audience reaction at all, partially because the audience is dead, but also because the fine-tuning that would elevate the production from a B+ to an A hasn't happened yet. But I guess that's what previews are for!

The stream is still worth watching. It's a very good version of the play. But those who are wondering what the fuss is about may still be wondering afterwards.

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