Wilton Playshop opens season with Tony-winner

In a show of theatrical neighborliness, the Wilton Playshop and the Carriage House Arts Center in Norwalk are collaborating on a joint performance to open their fall seasons.
This weekend, after it concludes its run in Norwalk, the Playshop will present the Tony-Award winning Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike from Sept. 25 to Oct. 3.
Playshop board president Ralph Pastore, who has participated in such collaborations with other theater companies, said it is a win-win for both organizations.
“We share a pool of actors and talent … we are colleagues and friends. We are very excited about the potential of being able to produce this play.”
Written by Christopher Durang, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was named best play of 2013. The comedy revolves around three middle-aged siblings. Vanya and Sonia live together, supported by their sister Masha, an aging movie star, who visits with news that she plans to sell their house.
Masha shows up with her much younger, handsome, but dimwitted lover named Spike, who then meets Nina, a young fan of Masha. Add a sooth-saying housekeeper named Cassandra, and lives, loves, hopes and dreams — realized and dashed — are hashed out.
Pastore said the two organizations found out “in conversation that we were both planning it for our season. Clearly it would not make sense for both of us to present the same play in such close proximity.” They decided to produce it together.
“It’s one set that will transfer from their space to Wilton, one set of costumes, one set of actors, basically the same crew and we share expenses and share the revenue,” he said.
“It’s a wonderful compromise and everybody wins and both groups have a great opportunity to produce the show.”
The show had its run Sept. 11-20 in Norwalk. In addition to sharing cast and crew, Frank Gaffney, who is on the Carriage House board of directors, is director for both stages, and each theatrical group brought talents to the productions.
Pastore, a former vice president of fund raising for the Playshop, has been with the theatrical troupe since 2007, although he was a performer here before that. He took over as president of the board in August.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike leads off a season that includes The 12 Days of Christmas, The Commons of Pensacola, and Chicago.
When asked why Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Pastore cited the talent of the playwright and the material, which is “very meaty for the actor and actress.”
He said he and many of his theatrical colleagues had seen the show on Broadway “and connected to it. It’s perfect for a smallish space, more intimate. It is so truly funny.
“To have it be a recent Tony Award-winning play — what a great showing for both theaters,” he said.
By presenting a newer play, Pastore said it offsets the tried and true. “It helps maintain subscribers and audience members. It’s great to have a little bit of a twist and draw new folks to the theater. … If you look at the season, it is a really nice bill. There are a lot of really nice offerings. It’s a very strong season overall.”
He said he thinks Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is relatable to Fairfield County. “The family dynamics, certainly. More than anything it is a funny, well-written comedy. You’ll have a good laugh and smile on your face.”
The cast includes:

  • Geoffrey Gilbert of Stratford as Vanya;

  • Donna L. White of Mahopac, N.Y., as Sonia;

  • Nancy Sinacori of Stamford as Masha;

  • Glenn Ghirardi of Norwalk as Spike;

  • Carin Freidag of Norwalk as Cassandra;

  • April Lichtman of Easton as Nina.

Curtain times are 8 p.m., Sept. 25, 26, Oct. 1, 2, and 3; and 2 p.m., Sept. 27.
Tickets are $25/adults, $20/students and seniors. Thursday shows offer a $5 discount for all.
Information: wiltonplayshop.org.