Directing her first play, Shelly Baker cast sister and fellow Dobie High School graduate Robyn LeGris as one of the title characters in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” which plays April 6-22 at the Pearl Theater near Pearland.
But LeGris wanted to play Masha, the movie star in the show, not Sonia, the gloomy, depressed spinster.
“I was a little perturbed,” said LeGris. “How do you play someone who’s depressed? It’s hard to give energy to a character like that.”
“Robyn would have been perfect in either role, but Masha would have been more like typecasting,” Baker said. “Sonia is more of a challenge. Masha would have been too easy for her.”
At Dobie, Baker played Betty Chumley, the doctor’s wife in Mary Chase’s “Harvey,” while LeGris was worldly Sabina, a role originated on Broadway by Tallulah Bankhead, in Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth.” Their brother, Tracy Underhill, also was a thespian at the school.
LeGris said that a perk to playing Masha in the Pearl Theater production would be getting to kiss the character’s “boy toy,” Spike, who is portrayed by Gage Cattoni, 28, of Pearland.
“He was the obvious choice of all the actors that I knew or that had played the Pearl in the past,” Baker said. “He has the build, the height and the ‘look.’ He is a really sweet guy; everyone likes him a lot. I feel very fortunate he agreed to join the cast.”
Ralph Coburn of Pearland plays Vanya, a middle-aged gay man who lives with his sister, Sonia, in the family home in beautiful Bucks County, Pennsylvania. They are surprised by a visit from Spike and Masha, who has decided to sell the family estate.
Kim Lee of Pearland landed the role of Masha Hardwicke in the play.
Penny Rieger plays Cassandra, the housekeeper, and Angelica Elliott is Nina, a young, aspiring actress who is visiting next-door, in the script that won veteran author Christopher Durang the Tony Award for best play on Broadway in 2013.
Baker, who lives in the Underhill family home where she grew up near Hobby Airport, said she relates to Vanya and Sonia, the siblings in the play who feel that life might be passing them by.
“I got married very young; so I had to wait later in life to pursue some of my interests,” she said.
“My love for live theater started when I played ‘Schoolgirl No. 2’ in a kindergarten play back in the mid-20th century,” she added, explaining that it wasn’t until her two children graduated from South Houston High School that she “joined the family of volunteers here at the Pearl Theater.”
She stage-managed “The Nerd” in 2012 and was the
“I am the director of volunteer services; so I can be seen 90 percent of the time in the window at the box office,” said Baker.
For ticket information, call 713-941-1758 or visit www.pasadenalittletheatre.org.
Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at email@example.com