TribLive: Riverfront Theater Co. gears up for new show

Riverfront Theater Company gears up for ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’

Sunday, November 3, 2019 | 12:01 AM

Actress Emily Welsh knew she just had to audition for the Riverfront Theater Company’s upcoming show, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”

“I knew I had to get into that room,” Welsh, of North Huntingdon, said. “This show has wit, a quick pace and the playwright makes everyday dullness seem hilarious.”

Her determination paid off — Welsh landed a starring role in the production, which runs Nov. 7-9 and 14-16 at Aspinwall Riverfront Park.

She plays Masha, an aging movie star who returns home to visit siblings Vanya and Sonia.

“Masha describes herself as lovably monstrous, which sums up this character perfectly,” Welsh said. “She has qualities that are very hard to like, so there are moments where it’s very hard for audiences to get behind her, but just like all of us, Masha wants to be heard, understood and loved.”

Tickets are available at

Written by Christopher Durang, the comedy dissects the relationships of three middle-aged single siblings.

It won the Tony Award in 2013 for Best Play, as well as the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play.

Other leading roles went to Randy Berner as Vanya, Randi Ippolito as Sonia and Jamie McDonald as Spike.

Director Rogella Jaoude, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., said the script is lighthearted and funny, but theatergoers will recognize more serious current themes.

“It reminds us that while change is inevitable, there are some things that are just timeless,” Jaoude said.

Welsh agreed, saying that peeking into the family’s Bucks County farmhouse and watching humor unfold in their mundane daily routines will likely have the audience still laughing as they leave and “hopefully feeling a little lighter and maybe even grateful their family is a little different from this one.”

Sharpsburg’s Jamie McDonald, publicity chair for Riverfront Theater, is pulling double duty, having landed the role of “Spike,” an aspiring 20-something actor who is Masha’s new companion.

Spike is self-absorbed but otherwise outgoing and friendly.

McDonald said the crew is taking creative direction with regard to the layout of the stage in the unconventional venue at Aspinwall Riverfront Park, transforming the intimate setting into an expansive farmhouse.

“I’m so thrilled to be a part of this show and hope we can get the whole community to come out for it,” he said.