Director Bart DeLorenzo on the Master of Comedy, Christopher Durang

Beth Fhaner
 | Aug 30, 2018
Bart DeLorenzo

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike director Bart DeLorenzo.

Christopher Durang

More About Playwright Christopher Durang:

American playwright Christopher Durang is known for works of outrageous and often absurd comedy. His play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, won the Tony Award and the Drama Desk award for Best Play in 2013. Durang received Obie Awards for Sister Mary Ignatius, The Marriage of Bette and Boo and Betty’s Summer Vacation. He received a nomination for a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for A History of the American Film. Durang has been awarded numerous fellowships and high-profile grants including a Guggenheim, a Rockefeller, the CBS Playwriting Fellowship, the Lecomte du Nouy Foundation grant, and the Kenyon Festival Theatre Playwriting Prize. He was the co-director of the Lila Achenson Wallace American Playwrights Program at Juilliard. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild Council. He was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 2006 for Miss Witherspoon. In 2010, he was the inaugural recipient of the Luminary Award from the New York Innovative Theatre Awards for his work Off-Off-Broadway. He was awarded the PEN/ Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award in 2012. In that same year, he was also inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Sept. 30-Oct. 21, Julianne Argyros Stage) marks the ​third time SCR has produced the playwright’s work, as well as the first time director Bart DeLorenzo has staged a Durang play. DeLorenzo has directed four of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s plays throughout his career, so he’s well-versed on the Chekhovian themes and characters referenced in Durang’s Tony Award-winning play.

“I love the melancholic characters, unpronounceable Russian names, hopeless romances and dashed dreams,” says DeLorenzo. “But it’s liberating to come upon such a wild comedy in which these delightful, desperate people can have some fun.”

DeLorenzo admits that he’s been a fan of Durang’s riotous farces since he first started reading plays in high school.

“They’re all hysterical, but with this piece, Durang reminds me that I, too, am a Chekhovian character,” notes DeLorenzo. “I may not sigh wistfully about relocating to Moscow, but many afternoons I look out my window and long to escape to a simpler time, the days before Twitter, of rotary phones and televised puppet shows—even though I didn’t like these things that much at the time.”

Additionally, DeLorenzo acknowledges that Durang finds all the humor in this helpless chore of aging gracefully. “Gracefully? What does that even mean?” questions DeLorenzo. “Standing witness as the world transforms around you, with snowballing disappointments and increasingly achy limbs? This, I suppose, is why this play makes me laugh so much. It’s a deep fierce laugh, laughter through tears.” 

As funny and touching as the play is, DeLorenzo explains that it’s also a manifesto for possibility—for taking second chances, and for recognizing those surprising first chances that may come upon you later in life, even after you’ve stopped looking for them.

“The play says something that I believe in heartily: that it’s never too late to change your life,” says DeLorenzo. “And perhaps in laughing at yourself, you can find that elusive grace that the world is always denying.”

As a final thought, DeLorenzo mentions that he believes the secret to directing comedies is to cast funny people, and he feels incredibly fortunate with SCR’s production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. “I think this production is especially lucky to have gathered such an outrageously talented group of comedians for this, my first time directing a Durang play—talk about a first chance later in life! I hope that there will be many more.”

Learn more about Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and buy tickets.