Tiny Beautiful Things is based on a collection of Cheryl Strayed’s online advice columns that she wrote anonymously for two years. Nia Vardalos took the Best Seller and adapted it for the stage. She was assisted by Marshall Heyman and Thomas Kail. The production at the Arden Theatre directed by Maura Krause beautifully captures the nuance and thoughtfulness of Sugar (Ms. Strayed’s pseudonym). When one walks into the theater, they are greeted by Christopher Haig’s spare, but extremely functional set.
From the very beginning we learn how Sugar got the job and how her experiences, successful and unsuccessful shaped the direction of her column. Emilie Krause embraces the role of Sugar. She does a wonderful job showing Sugar’s growth from unsure young journalist to compassionate, honest sounding board for her readers. As we watch her warmly engage with her readers, we also become drawn into her personal empathy, her warmth, and her willing openness. It doesn’t take long for the audience to become one with the conversation she has with her readers.
The role of letter readers are handles with great skill by Akeem Davis, Joilet F. Harris, and Bailey Roper. They rotate as readers regardless of gender or age. It gives a universal sense of her audience. All three deftly make their characters real. They capture the humanity of each character.
In the end we have a little better understanding of the human journey. It is a delight to see such great actors work as a true ensemble. For some of them, it is more interesting to see what they do when they are not speaking. Director Krause deserves a lot of credit for keeping the story flowing and interesting. Tiny Beautiful Things runs until December 8th. For information go online at http://www.ardentheatre.org.
Photos by Wide Eyed Studios