Encore/Debut: Robin Aren Presents ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ at Bay Street

A 2022 performance of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" at LTV Studios in East Hampton
A 2022 performance of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at LTV Studios in East Hampton (Courtesy of Andrea Schiavoni)
Courtesy Andrea Schiavoni

The upcoming production of Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, coming to Bay Street Theater on March 16–19, marks both an exciting debut and an encore.

East End theater fans will likely remember that a production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was presented by Intrepid Theatricals at LTV Studios last May, and taking one look at the Bay Street and LTV cast lists would give the impression that these two productions are one in the same. They are … sort of.

The entire cast, including three local actors, returns with John Leonard reprising his role as Vanya, Teresa DeBerry as Sonia, Andrea Schiavoni as Masha, Connor Tuohy as Spike, Anna Schiavoni as Nina and Catherine Bromberg as Cassandra. Allen O’Reilly, Bay Street’s director of education and community outreach and the founder of Intrepid Theatricals, returns to direct the show, but for the upcoming production, he’s requested backup to make it better than ever.

O’Reilly and Schiavoni, who’s also the woman behind the show’s sets and costumes, reached out to a former student of Bay Street’s improv class, Robin Aren, with a proposition: “‘We have this show. We need a producer. How does this sound?’” Aren recalls them asking after she expressed interest in producing. “I said, ‘It’s a go!’ With that, it sort of forced me into the position of forming Robin Aren Productions.”

With a BFA from Boston Conservatory, Aren has a respectable background in choreography and dance, and a solid foundation is production, too. “Even though I hadn’t formed an official production company … with my dance and choreography background, I was ultimately producing, little did I know. I would have commissions, either through museums or my alma mater, to choregraph at a fair or in other sorts of contemporary, immersive spaces while they’re having an installation or another type of interactive exhibition. I would go on to work closely with other choreographers who had mentored me through the process of producing.”

With Robin Aren Productions set to present its debut show, Aren set out to get the Hamptons community involved, with sponsors including theater patrons and businesses such as Topping Rose House. And word is, radio giveaways are on the table to really drum up hype for this reworked encore show.

“I think the (actors), in rehearsals, have had these breakthrough moments like, ‘Oh, my god! This is why (my character) comes to this realization. This is what makes them change,’ that they did not see or understand from the first run,” she says. “I think they have changed as artists, as with their relationships to their character and to one another, so I think it’s fully revitalized and will have such a new life, breath and energy around it.”

Those who witnessed the LTV production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike can look forward to these deeper character connections, as well staging and choreographic adjustments that take into account the wider Bay Street stage. Those who haven’t seen it will witness with fresh eyes a hysterical, bittersweet story of middle-aged sibling rivalries, a psychic housekeeper, a shirtless boy toy and all-too-relatable family dynamics.

“I’ve already seen changes in Allen’s directorial vision-making in rehearsals. That’s been fascinating to get to watch. … They’ve reworked a bunch of things, and it’s just a little bit more physical,” Aren says, noting the importance of physicality in this show. “There’s so much movement in Spike’s role; that’s a very big part of his characterization is his physicality. And along with Cassandra’s character, as the housekeeper, she has a very physical experience. It’s really innate.”

Aren’s insights into the intricacies of the characters and the actors’ evolving portrayals of them originates from paying close attention to her team during the production process, as the play is otherwise new to her.

“The funny thing is that when they asked me, I had never seen this play before,” she says. “But I believed in the people who came to me with it. I knew the camaraderie of this cast would be so special, and once I heard the first table read, I thought it was just such a unique work that brings you from tears to laughter to making you feel like you’ve gone through this rollercoaster of change yourself where you can have empathy for the characters.”

The Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike ­production coming to Bay Street this month is shaping up to be an exciting opportunity for O’Reilly and the actors to present their most insightful and fine-tuned show yet, and for Robin Aren Productions to make its grand debut.

“It was always on its way. There are a lot of projects that I’ve created and that are in development that I have had in the works with other production companies, but I always felt that it would be most empowering to bring it to life through my own production company,” Aren says. “It’s having this agency to make these decisions and having that literal seat at the table to be able to be a part and oversee decisions that really touch on the soul of each individual project. I’m such a person that loves to be a part of things I’m passionate about, whether it’s dance, theater, comedy. This is the perfect segue where all ends meet. It’s a beautiful thing to get to witness. … And I think it’s really special that the first official production is down in Sag Harbor with such local talent.”

Tickets are $35 and are available by calling 631-725-9500 or by visiting baystreet.org.

Robin Aren
Robin Aren (Courtesy Robin Aren)

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