Bay Area actresses relish zany roles in comedy

07 Jan

Two busy Bay Area actresses, performing together for the first time, portray sisters in Christopher Durang’s Tony Award-winning comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” which is on stage Jan. 26 through Feb. 11 at Pasadena Little Theatre.

“My character, Sonia, is very funny – unintentionally (funny) most of the time,” said Barbara Winburn of Santa Fe.

Jean Ciampi of League City plays Masha, who “is in many ways completely opposite of who I am, but someone I would love to be sometimes,” said the actress with a laugh. “It’s her attitude. She says things that I might think but I have a solid-enough upbringing that I would never say out loud.”

The show’s other title characters are Vanya, the women’s gay brother, and Spike, who is Masha’s 20-something “boy toy.”

Edward “Teddy” Waddell portrays Spike.

Ciampi added, “I met Teddy at the auditions, and immediately we started this passionate and superficial love affair.

“Emphasis on superficial,” she explained, meaning that it’s their characters who are “in love” onstage.

Or are they? The aging Masha, a movie star who has been married five times, worries that Spike, an aspiring actor, might have eyes for a younger woman, specifically the perky one next door.

“The reality of where all the characters are isn’t where any of them would like to be,” Ciampi said.

Their multiple frustrations result in a toppling of relationships by the play’s end.

“At auditions, my cast was so drawn to this play that you could just see the excitement in their twinkling eyes,” director Revis Bell said.

Rounding out the cast are Stephen Walker as Vanya, Taylor Pruett as Nina and Karen Rush of Nassau Bay as a housekeeper, Cassandra, who practices voodoo.

“The characters are so distinctive, and they’re exaggerated just enough to be entertaining but not caricatures,” said Ciampi. “That said, Cassandra is pretty over the top – and into orbit.”

Ciampi most recently portrayed Mrs. Claus in “A Little Christmas Spirit” at PLT.

Last year, Winburn played an adulteress, Grace, in “Cheaters” for Dinner Theatre at Franca’s in Webster and a Life magazine reporter, Kate, in PLT’s “The Cover of Life.”

Winburn grew up near El Campo, graduating from Louise High School, where she played dual roles in its University Interscholastic League one-act play entry. She continued acting at Wharton County Junior College and Texas State University in San Marcos.

However, Winburn’s career in health information management required so much travel that she put her acting hobby on hold until settling down as an internal auditor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

Since 2001, Winburn has performed major roles in venues throughout the Bay Area, including Clear Creek Community Theatre, Island ETC and College of the Mainland Community Theatre.

Bridget Roberts is the assistant to the director.

Stage managers are Joyce Barnett and Vivian Circus-Perkins.

Lighting design is by Vanessa Pearson, with Avry Dee-Ann working lights and audio.

The theater is at 4318 Allen-Genoa Road, Pasadena. For ticket information, call 713-941-1758 or visit our Home Page. Tickets will be available for online purchase starting Jan. 12

Written by: Don Maines

original source:

Over 40 years experience as an actor, director, choreographer. Originally began with PLT in 1974 with Bennie Nipper during her summer youth workshops. Credits include Boston, New York, Houston, Pasadena and Deer Park. Joined the PLT board in 2012.