The Story Behind the Photo: "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike"

Tania Thompson
 | Apr 23, 2021
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Jenna Cole and Tim Bagley in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang. Photo by Debora Robinson.

About ​​​V​anya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

In Bucks County, Penn., Vanya and Sonia share a country house where they fret endlessly—and amusingly—about their hapless lives. When Masha, their self-absorbed movie-star sister, and her much, much younger boy toy, Spike, visit for the weekend, the entire household gets hilariously upended. Rivalries are rekindled, resentments rage, the housekeeper blurts out strange prophecies and Masha announces she’s selling the house. A tongue-in-cheek homage to Chekhov, this Tony Award-winning comedy was described as “deliciously madcap” by USA Today.

If you have siblings, chances are you’ve experienced moments of rivalry. That’s what happened to the brother and two sisters in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang (2018). Jenna Cole portrayed Sonia who, with her brother, Vanya (Tim Bagley) had stayed at the family home taking care of their elderly parents while sister Masha pursued a highly visible movie career. Cole selected the photo above as a funny and poignant moment from the show.

What moment does this depict?

This is the first scene of the play, when Sonia and Vanya, brother and sister, are having their morning coffee and diet Coke together while looking out at the pond by their home.

How did you work to make this moment happen?

I absolutely adored working with Tim Bagley (Vanya) and if I had a brother, I would want him to be Tim! He was so giving and fun to work with. Director Bart DeLorenzo encouraged us to develop our brother/sister relationship, with all of its comfort and irritability, as well as our environment. The play takes place in the family home where Sonia, Vanya and Masha grew up, overlooking a pond in Pennsylvania. Creating a truthful relationship and environment onstage is so important for an actor. Tim and I are both from the Midwest and had many common points of time and history, which helped to connect us as brother and sister. We also had experience with family members who lived on a lake or pond and watched wildlife from the windows. The windows to the pond are the actor's Fourth Wall onstage—looking out toward the audience. For Sonia and Vanya, the pond and the search for the Great Blue Heron represents their hope for the future.

What’s the power about this moment?

We can all identify with getting irritated with the people who are the closest to us; there is a knowing humor in that frustration. Sonia has already smashed Vanya's coffee cup on purpose and can't explain why​; it's​ a life crisis of unfulfilled and unexplained potential. Also, there were so many lines and situations that paid homage to Chekhov's plays... and hopefully the audience had an added chuckle of familiarity.

Anything else you’d like to say about the photo or the production?

I liked sitting in those wicker chairs onstage with Tim so much, that I bought them after the show was over!  They now sit on my balcony overlooking a line of Eucalyptus trees. Calliope hummingbirds have replaced the Great Blue Heron.