“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at Trustus – a review by Jillian Owens

Trustus Theatre turns 30 this season, and I can’t decide if this should make them or me  feel old.  As a Gen Y-er, they’ve done pretty well for themselves.  They have consistently pushed the envelope and made Columbia’s theatre audiences be a bit more daring.  They’ve survived tough financial times and have managed to thrive and expand — both their physical space and their programming.  It’s all enough to makes this Millennial/Gen Y gal wonder what the heck she’s been doing with her life all these years…but I don’t care to think on that.

I’ll think instead upon Trustus Theatre’s 30th season opener, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, the Tony Award-winning farce (for Best Play) by Christopher Durang.  I’m not the only one feeling old.  The play opens with Vanya (Glenn Rawls) — a middle-aged man who’s out of the closet, but never manages to leave the house — and his equally reclusive celibate adopted sister, Sonia (Dewy Scott-Wiley).  They’ve spent a great part of their adult lives taking care of their ailing Chekhov-loving parents (hence their names), and haven’t known what to do with themselves since they died.  Their days pass slowly, punctuated with bickering and gazing out at the blue heron that frequents their pond from their sitting room.  Their only visitor is their housekeeper, Cassandra (Ellen Rodillo-Fowler) who greets them daily with some terrifically plagiarized premonitions (“BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH!”), and has a hankering for voodoo.

(l-r) Glenn Rawls, Dewey Scott-Wiley, Vicky Saye Henderson, Jimmy Wall - PROMO PHOTOS BY Jonathan Sharpe
(l-r) Glenn Rawls, Dewey Scott-Wiley, Vicky Saye Henderson, Jimmy Wall – photo by Jonathan Sharpe

Their drab existence is in sharp contrast to that of their glamorous (though not as glamorous as she used to be) movie star sister, Masha (Vicky Saye Henderson.)  She’s been footing the bill for her siblings’ extended adolescence.  When Masha pays an unexpected visit to her family home to attend an influential neighbor’s costume party with her 20-something half-wit boy toy Spike (Jimmy Wall), tensions rise and long-stifled grievances are aired.  And when Spike starts flirting with a lovely young neighbor by the name of Nina (Stephanie Walden), you can probably guess there’s going to be trouble.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is funny and clever, but not great amounts of either.  Director Jim O’Connor brings out the farcical elements of this play with plenty of campy moments and over-the-top embodiment of the characters by the actors, but it starts to feel tiresome by the end of the first act.  The pacing feels slow.  Durang’s script is rich with Chekhov (among other) references that are at first amusing, but once again, start to get old.  Durang has been funnier than this, and he’s been more touching than this.  The script just isn’t what it could be.

bbbThankfully, this production features some of Trustus’ best talents.  Henderson’s Masha is just as narcissistic, overly-competitive, and selfish as she can be, but there are moments where one can’t help but feel genuine pity for her insecurity.  Scott-Wiley and Rawls play off each other well as Sonia and Vanya.  Sonia runs the gamut of human emotions from profound depression to hysteria, and does a spot-on Maggie Smith impression to get out of feeling awkward at a party.  Vanya is definitely the gentler and more mild-mannered of the two, and is perhaps the most sympathetic character in the play.  Spike and Nina are fairly one-dimensional characters, and I found them both to be sort of annoying.  There isn’t much nuance to be found in either of these roles, but as an audience member, I wish Wall and Walden could have eked some out somehow.  Rodillo-Fowler thrived in her absurd role and earned the most laughs with the fewest lines as Cassandra.

While the vast majority of this play is a nutty comedy of (really terrible) manners, there is a thoughtful theme about it all, as tacked-on as it may be to the end of the second act.  Vanya begins to reminisce about the past, not resentfully as we’ve become accustomed to until now, but wistfully.  His musings become a rant, and then almost a call to action best captured in this moment:

“Now, now there’s Twitter and e-mail and Facebook and cable and satellite, and the movies and tv shows are all worthless, and we don’t even watch the same worthless things together, it’s all separate.  And our lives are… disconnected.”

It should feel hokey, but it doesn’t.  Perhaps it’s Rawls’ beautiful and heartfelt delivery.  Perhaps it’s just how this speech stands in stark contrast to the sillier lighter fare of the rest of the show.  But the catharsis that occurs as a result of this feels wonderfully genuine.   And that’s where Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike surprised me.

If you’re in the mood for something ridiculous that features some of Columbia’s best comedic talent, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike will certainly do.  I look forward to seeing all that Trustus has to offer in this landmark season.

~ Jillian Owens

 

 

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Goya’s Los Caprichos etchings come to Lake City – opening September 20th

The Sleep of Reason Produced Monsters
The Sleep of Reason Produced Monsters – Francisco Goya

 

Francisco Goya’s Los Caprichos etchings, one of the most influential graphic series in the history of Western art, will be presented at the Jones-Carter Gallery in Lake City, South Carolina from Saturday, September 20, 2014 through Saturday, January 3, 2015.  This exhibition features a superb first edition of the complete set of 80 etchings, which by tradition was one of the four sets acquired directly from Goya in 1799 by the duke of Osuna. It then came into the hands of Pedro Fernández Durán, of the house of the marquis of Perales, the greatest Spanish collector of the 19th century and a major donor to the Prado. His collector’s mark appears on all 80 prints of this set.  The exhibition includes an essay contributed by Robert Flynn Johnson, Curator in Charge, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Other works by Goya are also included in the exhibition for instructive comparison including a few later edition prints from Los Caprichos and examples from each of Goya’s other major graphic series: Los Desastres de la Guerra, Los Proverbios, and La Tauromaquia; and his early etchings after Velasquez. Additionally, to demonstrate the broad influence of Los Caprichos, the exhibition includes a 1920′s drawing after Los Caprichos plate 51, “Se Repulen,” by Edward Hagedorn, as well as eight etchings by contemporary artist, Enrique Chagoya, entitled, “Return to the Caprichos.”

In his original essay for the exhibition, Robert Flynn Johnson takes a fresh approach to Los Caprichos. Johnson has also undertaken an enlightening comparison between three contemporary interpretive manuscripts on the etchings—the “Prado,” the “Ayala,” and the “Madrid Biblioteca Nacional,” adding his own illuminating observations to each of the eighty plates. Additionally, Johnson ‘fast-forwards’ from Goya’s major opus to contemporary relevance in the work of two artists working in the 20th century—Edward Hagedorn and Enrique Chagoya.

Enigmatic and controversial, Goya’s Los Caprichos were published in 1799 at a time of social repression and economic crisis in Spain. Influenced by Enlightenment thinking, the painter set out to analyze the human condition and denounce social abuses and superstitions. Los Caprichos was his passionate declaration that the chains of social backwardness had to be broken if humanity was to advance. The series attests to the artist’s political liberalism and his revulsion towards ignorance and intellectual oppression; at the same time it mirrors Goya’s ambivalence toward authority and the church.

Los Caprichos deals with themes such as the Spanish Inquisition, the abuses of the church and the nobility, witchcraft, child rearing, avarice, and the frivolity of young women. The subhuman cast of Los Caprichos includes goblins, monks, procuresses, prostitutes, witches, animals acting like human fools, and aristocrats; these personages populate the world on the margins of reason, where no clear boundaries distinguish reality from fantasy.

 

 

The Jones-Carter Gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 10AM to 6PM and Saturday from 11AM to 5PM.  Admission is FREE.  Large groups are encouraged to call ahead.  On September 20, the gallery will be open from 10AM to 8PM.  Guided tours will be available for school groups 6th grade through 12th grade.  Please call the gallery at 843-374-1505 for additional information.

 

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Meet this year’s Jasper Interns

We’ve got a pretty great group of interns this season — you’ve probably already seen them around town delivering Jaspers, helping out other arts organizations, or just in the audience at an event, doing their part to help build and support the Columbia arts community. Some of these guys are artists themselves. Haley Sprankle, for example, will be singing the lead in Town Theatre’s Oklahoma this fall. Others are exceptional writers, like Kirby Knowlton, Abby Davis, and Caitlin McGuire (both Abby and Caitlin have work in the current issue of Jasper) while Nick Black is a gifted graphic artist and Annie Brooks teaches Bikram yoga.

We’re pretty psyched to be able to welcome this fine group of artists and arts lovers to the Jasper family. If you do see them around town, we hope you’ll welcome them, too

 

Meet The Interns – aka TEAM JASPER

Annie Brooks
Annie Brooks

Annie Brooks is a graduate of The University of South Carolina, a Bikram Yoga teacher, and a lover of arts and travel. Post graduation she worked for the Gibbes museum and City Gallery in Charleston. Recently she has returned from Los Angeles where she completed the nine weeks long certification program to become a Bikram teacher. She currently teaches at both Columbia studios. She is enthusiastic about consuming as much art as possible, and prizes her collection of exhibition tickets. Annie believes there is no better way to spend an afternoon than wandering galleries and museums, enjoying the visitors reactions and opinions just as much as the art itself. She feels privileged to contribute to the production of Jasper magazine, especially in a time when the Columbia arts and music scene is really taking off. She is of the belief that art is one of the few universal interests; it can span border lines and language barriers, bringing people together like nothing else.

 

Nick Black
Nick Black

Nick Black is a 20-year-old junior graphic artist from Columbia, SC. He attended Spring Valley High where he became involved in the arts; in 2012 he graduated as a National Art Honors Student. Also during his high school years he joined the NiA Company where he worked as an actor, assistant stage and sound director. Nick continues to provide assistance to the NiA Company in the area of graphic design. Currently he is pursuing a degree in Graphic Design at The Art Institute of Charlotte, where he is working as a student representative for Adobe Programming.

Haley Sprankle
Haley Sprankle

Haley Sprankle is 18 years old and is a freshman theatre major at the University of South Carolina. Although she was born in Denver, CO, she is a southern girl by heart. She recently graduated from Dutch Fork High School as an honor graduate, as editor of her yearbook, and received the Palmetto Fellows scholarship for her academic achievements. She is currently playing the role of Laurey in Oklahoma at Town Theatre while also teaching dance for Christy Mills at the SC Music and Dance Academy. Her favorite visual artist is Andy Warhol, her favorite author is Kate Chopin, and her favorite film is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She looks forward to being a part of the Jasper team this year and is so thankful for this wonderful opportunity!

 

Abbie Davis
Abbie Davis

 

Abby Davis studies English and philosophy at USC.  She is twenty years old and finishing her final year of undergrad.  Abby has written book reviews for the South Carolina Center for the Book and was the editor of her high school’s literary journal.  Her favorite film is Moonrise Kingdom and she adores David Foster Wallace. 
Caitlyn McGuire
Caitlyn McGuire

 

Caitlyn McGuire has a passion for the arts-music, dance, and most importantly, writing. This fifth year journalism student at University of South Carolina got her start in the arts in her hometown of Sandwich, Massachusetts on Cape Cod where she studied voice, and piano, ballet, tap, jazz and Irish Step dancing. The 22-year-old has grown an intense appreciation for the art, which led her to focus her writing style in journalism on just that. She started her journalism career outside of the classroom working for UCS’s newspaper, The Daily Gamecock, in the art’s and entertainment section, alternatively named the Mix section. She eventually went on to be the editor of the Mix and wrote feature articles for the school’s magazine, Garnet and Black. Aside from her nearly four years with The Daily Gamecock, she has been the social media intern for the Columbia Museum of Art, an editorial intern for the Columbia Regional Business report and most recently an editorial intern for culture magazine Cape Cod Life, where she published her own ten-page spread including her original photography. Set to graduate in December, she hopes to continue on with magazine writing and photography in arts and culture.  When she’s not listening to a new favorite band or exploring what’s playing at the Nickelodeon, she is discovering pieces by her favorite artists, Norman Rockwell, repeatedly reading works by Jane Austen, or watching her all time favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz.

 

Kirby Knowlton
Kirby Knowlton

Kirby Knowlton has lived in Columbia, South Carolina for as long as she can  remember. She is eighteen and a freshman advertising major at the  University of South Carolina. She has won several Scholastic gold medals for writing. Her favorite author is Frank O’Hara and she has a crush on every leading actor in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

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