Christopher Durang’s very funny 2013 Tony-winning comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” both mocks and celebrates the great Anton Chekhov plays it pulls its characters from.
The new Berkeley Rep production has more laughs than Chekhov does, but the surprisingly sentimental farce also doesn’t quite have the poignancy the Russian’s master works carried, either. Durang front-loads the loss and regret of his play with the hangdog brother and sister characters of Anthony Fusco’s Vanya and Sharon Lockwood’s Sonia, who live comfortably on their family’s elegant estate in Bucks County, Pa. Fusco and Lockwood are both comic masters in top form here. Neither works or seems to have any ambitions beyond drinking a good cup of coffee in the morning and watching birds flock to their pond.
The predictable melancholy of their uneventful lives takes a drastic turn with the sudden appearance of their sister Masha (Lorri Holt), a successful movie actress in sexy B-level slasher/thrillers and new boy toy companion, Spike (an outstanding Mark Junek). The self-interested Masha, who financially maintains the house, thinks she should sell it since she’s never there. But first she wants everyone to attend a neighborhood costume party supporting her Snow White.
The members of the well-balanced ensemble all have their moments, including Heather Alicia Simms as Cassandra, the housekeeper who is naturally prone to having visions. Directed by Richard E.T. White, the production runs through Oct. 25 at Berkeley Repertory's Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison St., Berkeley. Tickets: $29-$89. Information: (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org.
Jazz at Bows & Arrows
Drummer composer John Hollenbeck’s unclassifiable new-music group, the Claudia Quintet, rolls into Bows & Arrows on Wednesday with their freshly minted CD “September” receiving glowing notices around the country. A chamber ensemble featuring a cool minimal outside jazz timbre, the group was named Rising Star Jazz Group in DownBeat Magazine’s 2012 Critics’ Poll.
The band includes Matt Moran on vibraphone, Red Wierenga on accordion/piano, Chris Tordini on acoustic bass and Chris Speed on clarinet/tenor saxophone. The music was all composed in the month of September of various years. The chattering “20th Soterius Lakshmi” opens the record. One tune, “29th, 1936 ‘Me Warn You,’” samples a piece of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s brilliant and still-prescient 1936 “smooth evasion” speech. The album closer, “12th Coping Song,” is a hymn inspired by Sept. 11, 2001. Hollenbeck and colleagues are nimble but tightly knit in their experimental vision. The Claudia Quintet, 8 p.m., Wednesday, Bows & Arrows, 1815 19th St. Sacramento. All ages, tickets $10. Information: (916) 822-5668, bowscollective.com.
“Radio Golf,” the last play August Wilson wrote and the last installment of his epic 10-part series, “The Pittsburgh Cycle,” brings the action back to 1839 Wylie Ave., a familiar address (home of the legendary spiritual adviser Aunt Ester of “Gem of the Ocean”) in the Hill District where all of Wilson’s plays are set.
The most contemporary of the plays, “Radio Golf” deals with ambition, history and legacies that are tied up in property and long-forgotten sacrifices.
The Celebration Arts production continues at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturdays and 2 p.m Sundays through Oct. 20 (the last performance is already sold out as is the show on Oct. 10). At Celebration Arts Theater, 4469 D St., Sacramento. Tickets $13-$15; $8 on Thursdays. Call (916) 455-2787 or go to Celebrationarts.net for more information.