By Peter Stamelman
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On one of the most glorious Sundays of the spring thus far, I found myself on one of the most charming streets in Brooklyn Heights. Willow Place, between Joralemon and State Streets, is so secluded and quiet that one can actually hear birds chirping. Situated in the middle of this charming residential block is a 19th-century church that’s been transformed into the home of The Heights Players, a community theater celebrating its 61st season.
Ordinarily when one thinks of community theater, one pictures a Norman Rockwell painting of local bankers and school teachers and stay-at-home moms in sensible shoes mounting a production of “The Music Man” in someplace like Davenport, Iowa. The Heights Players are more Reginald Marsh than Norman Rockwell. Under the expert guidance of current director Bernard Bosio, and with the support of devoted donors and longtime subscribers, the theater company has presented first-class productions of Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neal, Arthur Miller and Neil Simon. And musicals also — up next after “Vanya and Sonia…” is Sondheim’s uproarious “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” is a rollicking mash-up of Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard,” “Uncle Vanya,” “Three Sisters” and “The Seagull.” The play premiered in September 2012 at the McCarter Theater in Princeton. It then transferred to Off-Broadway and Broadway, with the original cast of David Hyde Pierce, Sigourney Weaver and Kristine Neilsen. In 2013, the Broadway production won the Tony Award for Best Play and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play. It is regularly performed in regional theater across the U.S.
The Heights Player production includes stand-out performances from Gary Dooley as Vanya, Liz Bove as Sonia, Meg Dooley as Masha, Qianna Brooks as Cassandra and a particularly uninhibited turn from John Honey-Fitzgerald as Spike, Masha’s gigolo. In addition, in her Heights Players debut, Sarah Gallimore Cheatham is an affecting, lovely Nina. Bosio directs with a light touch and the nostalgia-suffused set design by Gary VanderPutten. Alan Sporing and “Smiles of a Summer Night” lighting design by the aforementioned Sporing are pitch-perfect.
All Brooklyn theater buffs should wend their way to Willow Place before the play closes — and the dacha is sold — on April 23.
April 18, 2017 - 4:14pm
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