By David Ng
8:15 AM PST, November 14, 2012
When some actors hit it big in Hollywood, they leave behind the theater world where they honed their craft. Such is not the case with Sigourney Weaver, who has made a point of doing plays in between more lucrative screen projects such as the "Alien" movies and more recently, "Avatar."
Weaver is back on stage this month in a new Chekhov-inspired comedy written by her fellow Yale Drama School alum -- and frequent collaborator -- Christopher Durang. "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," playing at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre, is a contemporary comedy that borrows character names and themes from some of the Russian playwright's best-known dramas.
The play, which also stars David Hyde Pierce, tells the story of Masha (Weaver), a famous movie star who arrives at her family's old home in Pennsylvania with her much-younger boyfriend in tow. Her melancholy brother, Vanya (Pierce), and sister, Sonia (Kristine Nielsen), must deal with her self-dramatizing antics.
"Vanya" opened at the McCarter Theatre in New Jersey in September before transferring off-Broadway.
Weaver has worked frequently at the Flea Theater in downtown New York. The Flea is a small company run by her husband, Jim Simpson. The actress has worked a number of times with Durang, including a 1996 Broadway production of his comedy "Sex and Longing."
What did the critics think about her most recent stage performance?
Ben Brantley of the New York Times described Weaver's performance as a "game sendup of every self-loving, self-doubting movie queen there ever was." He also praised Pierce for bringing a "skillfully low-key comic discomfort" to his character. As for the play, fans of Durang "can watch a master of antic psycho-comedy play with Chekhov like a self-amusing cat toying with a tangled string."
The New York Post's Elizabeth Vincentelli wrote that Weaver is less convincing than her co-stars and that the actress "tries way too hard" to be funny. The playwright "ladles one-liners and increasingly kooky situations" but he also "adds flickers of bittersweet emotion."
David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter described the play as "a work by a mature playwright taking stock and illuminating countless universal truths for those of us who have hit contemplative middle age." Weaver "pulls [her role] off in high style, allowing hilarious glimpses of Masha’s insecurity whenever her faded youth is acknowledged."
Newday's Linda Winer wrote that the play "does not quite live up to its delirious promise." But it's a "thrill to watch Weaver -- Durang's longtime partner in dark-doodle cartoon crime -- morph, moment by moment, as her hilariously narcissistic beauty collapses into acting its age."
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