Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Hands on a Hardbody

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is hilarious, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is deadly dull and Hands on a Hardbody needs a tow truck!

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike   (4 ½ stars)
Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s   (½ star)
Hands on a Hardbody   (2 stars)

Christopher Durang’s comedy of sibling rivalry, familial angst and emotional ennui has transferred to Broadway where it’s charming audiences with its smart script, and its hilarious performances.  David Hyde Pierce and Kristine Nielsen have returned as brother and sister, Vanya and Sonia, eking out a dysfunctional existence in the home they grew up in, but also the home for which their glamorous movie star sister Masha, Sigourney Weaver, pays the bills.  When Masha unexpectedly appears with her new boy toy Spike, Billy Magnussen, and announces she’s selling the house, resentments are unleashed and Chekhovian comedy ensues.  Add into the mix the young and beautiful Nina, Genevieve Angelson, who threatens Masha’s self-esteem, a housekeeper named Cassandra, Shalita Grant, who can foresee the future, and terrific direction by Nicholas Martin and you’ve got a bona fide smash on your hands.  Nielsen is a shoe-in for a Tony as Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and the hunkalicious Magnussen proves a beautiful face and a rock-hard body can also harbor a smart, savvy comedian who’s a damn good actor.  He deserves a Tony nomination, too, as does the whole production.

Do you think director Sean Mathias still thinks Breakfast at Tiffany’s can work as a stage vehicle?  He tried it first in London in 2009 starring Anna Friel and adapted by British playwright Samuel Adamson.  It flopped.  He’s trying it again here on Broadway starring (a wildly miscast) Emilia Clarke (HBO’s Game of Thrones) adapted by American playwright Richard Greenberg.  It’s flopped again…badly.  Do you think he’ll try directing it again?  Or will he give Holly Golightly a much-needed rest?  Based on the dull, dreary, dismal ball of wax on-stage at the Cort, I vote for the latter!

It’s easy to see what might have drawn Doug Wright (book), Trey Anastasio (music) and Amanda Green (lyrics) to the source material in the 1997 documentary, Hands on a Hardbody, about a group of 24 down-on-their-luck Texans who enter an endurance contest of sleep deprivation to be the “last person standing” and win a truck.  But reducing this story to a musical form lessens their lives instead of enriching them.  Hands on a Hardbody has no plot, is too long, has an unnecessary intermission and contains a mediocre score with serviceable tunes by Anastasio (of Phish fame) and clumsy rhymes inside amateurish lyrics by Green.  No matter how many times they spin that truck around on-stage, this show goes nowhere!

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike plays at the Golden (252 W 45th St, VSMSPlay.com).  Breakfast at Tiffany’s plays at the Cort (138 W 48th St, BreakfastAtTiffanysOnBroadway.com).  Hands on a Hardbody plays at the Brooks Atkinson (256 W 47th St, HandsOnAHardbody.com).

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