THE CAST: Top row, Jose Moreno Brooks, Svetlana Efremova and Jenna Cole; bottom row, Lorena Martinez, Pamela J. Gray and Tim Bagley.
The cast for Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike includes new faces and SCR veterans. In rehearsal, they’re discovering all about the characters’ personalities and eccentricities, unpacking the story of sibling rivalry and more. Here’s what some of them have to say about the play, the playwright, their own (and their characters') offbeat traits and what their characters are like.
Tim Bagley portrays Vanya.
Last at SCR: He is making his SCR debut, but has worked before with director Bart DeLorenzo.
His other credits include “Grace and Frankie,” “Grimm,” “One Day at a Time,” “Will and Grace,” Finding Bliss. Read Bagley’s full bio here.
What draws him to Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike: “I like the darkness and pathos and sadness about the play. I always enjoy exploring familial relationships, and the natural humor that comes out of the pain of a shared family experience. I like that Vanya is stuck—and has a sense of resignation about his life and his situation—and how inspiration and hope can come from the most unexpected places. I love the journey this play takes us on with this whack-a-do family.”
Pet peeve: “I’m a dog owner, but I have a pet peeve: when pet owners put their dogs in the child seat part of the grocery cart—the part where I put my blueberries and grapes and bananas and what-nots. They always look concerned when I snap their photos and post them to Facebook.”
Jose Moreno Brooks portrays Spike.
At SCR: He is making his debut.
His other credits include “Telenovela,” “Jane the Virgin,” West Side Story. Read Brooks’ full bio here.
What about the play makes him laugh: “Honestly, I laugh out loud throughout the play; most of the comedy, for me, comes out of the relationships between the brother and sisters. When you have known someone for that long, and that intimately, there is no hiding or pulling punches.”
About Spike: “I get the sense that he believes once the right people meet him, his success as a movie star will be undeniable. This is humorous and tragic all at once. But who knows—just look at ‘Jersey Shore.’ ”
Something offbeat: “Traveling to a farm in rural Illinois with my mother, aunt and cousin to attend a Brazilian shamanic ceremony.”
Jenna Cole portrays Sonia.
Last at SCR: The Wind in the Willlows (2004). She teaches in the Theatre Conservatory.
Her other credits include performances at Pasadena Playhouse, Mark Taper Forum, Shakespeare Orange County, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Pittsburgh Playhouse. Read Cole’s full bio here.
What makes her laugh about the play: “It surprises me how much I laugh during rehearsal—it’s because the cast is so good at finding the truth in the humor or the humor in the truth. And I understand how challenging and frustrating it is for adult children to navigate their relationships within a family, especially once the parents are gone.”
Something offbeat: “For my best friend’s birthday, because she absolutely adores The Sound of Music, we traveled to Salzburg and took a private tour dressed in nun attire. My friend was, of course, the Mother Superior and we followed her everywhere around the city. After a while, it was really fun. No one asked us directions to the nearest church, but other Sound of Music tours wanted selfies with us!
Svetlana Efremova portrays Cassandra.
At SCR: her credits include Tartuffe (1999), References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot (2000), The Countess (2000) and numerous readings in the Hispanic Playwrights Project and NewSCRipts series.
Her other credits include White Oleander, Phone Booth, “House of Cards,” “OA,” “Blacklist,” “The Closer.” Read Efremova’s full bio here.
What makes this play relate to Chekhov “Hundred years ago, characters from Chekhov plays dreamed of a beautiful future, hoped for a better life and suffered from their own imperfections. And here we are, 100 years later and nothing has changed. We hope and suffer and believe in a beautiful life ahead of us, just like Chekhov's characters many, years ago.
What makes her laugh about the play: It’s Christopher Durang’s characters because they are so recognizable. And, if you don’t identify directly with them, then you know someone in your life who is just like them. The play has so many absurd moments, just like some Chekhov plays. And Durang is also able to update Chekhov’s themes—isolation, loss, regret, melancholy—to fit 21st-century America.
Pamela Gray portrays Masha.
Last at SCR: The Real Thing (1986).
Her other credits include Present Laughter and Butley (Broadway); performances at Manhattan Theatre Club, Pasadena Playhouse, The Old Globe; Michael Clayton, The Devil’s Advocate, “Sons of Anarchy,” “Law & Order” franchise; “Bones,” “The Closer.” Read Gray’s full bio here.
The draw of Christopher Durang’s writing: “I love how you can always rely on his plays to take something seemingly normal—even mundane—and put an eccentric twist on it. Getting inside of characters like that is a special challenge in understanding the true, daily eccentricity of human nature.”
Something offbeat: “I call my husband every time I hear a radio report about a traffic accident anywhere in the vicinity of LA to make sure it's not him.”
Lorena Martinez portrays Nina.
Last at SCR in the world premiere of Yoga Play (2017).
Her other credits include Up Here, Mr. Burns, Spelling Bee, Into the Woods, Anchor Babies, Hotel Pennsylvania, Landing in Mumbai. Read Martinez’s full bio here.
What about the play makes her laugh: “I'm cackling all throughout rehearsal. It's in the language and behaviors, how unique each character is and how blunt they are with each other. It's just a brilliant recipe and combination of personalities. And these actors? My mind is blown!”
Why her character, Nina, makes her laugh: “I love how authentic she is and how disconnected she is from her time, she insists on seeing the best in people and that level of genuine hope mixed in with this group of people just lends itself to hilarious moments. Hopefully I'll get it together and stop breaking character laughing. It's not professional! (smiles)”
Something offbeat: “Oh, man—in 2000, I got a horse. He was the best thing to ever happen to me; and, with help from the guy who sold him, I taught him how to dance! His name is Zapateado (in Spanish, zapatear means to dance with your feet) and he just loves music.”
Which traditional Chekhov character she identifies with: “I've always felt a connection to Lubov Andreyevna in The Cherry Orchard in the way she loves. Especially in the tragedy that is falling for the wrong person and owning you love them even though they are the worst. There's courage in not looking to ‘win’ or caring about your pride and admitting someone has your heart whether they deserve it or not.”
Learn more about Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and buy tickets.