BWW Review: LIFE SUCKS. at The Wild Project
A month ago I saw Austin Pendleton portray a teacher on Broadway in the fine play Choir Boy. Now he is the elderly Professor with a much younger third wife. They are visiting with Sonia and Uncle Vanya in this adaptation of Chekhov's play. Right from the start, the cast informs that LIFE SUCKS. is about love and longing, true to the spirit of its source material. The Professor notes "it's also about the audacious, ludicrous and protean nature of the obstreperous and ever-feckless human heart." Vanya points out "he has a penchant for sesquipedalian elocution." Fans of word play will lick their chops listening to some of this dialogue.
Aaron Posner (My Name is Asher Levy) spins an effective comedy out of these familiar characters and situations. Families are hard wired to totally upset each other. Lovesick dreamers are bound to be hurt with disappointment when feelings are not mutual. LIFE SUCKS. attempts to answer the question, "Is love real - or a manmade construct like religion... or football?"
There are plenty of laughs throughout this production. The actors play characters who know they are in a play and often break the wall to speak directly to the audience. In a scene titled "3 Things I Love," permanent house guest Babs (Barbara Kingsley) adds to her list: "the crisp clink of cubes of ice in a really sturdy glass." The rampantly desirable Ella (Nadia Bowers) asks the audience "how many of you would like to sleep with me if you could?" Some hands were raised.
Nearly everyone seems to be in love with Ella, including Pickles (Stacey Linnartz) who is somehow related to the family and "an acquired taste." The script defines her as a "relentlessly positive utopian lesbian." She takes things a bit literally. After one of the Professor's acerbic barbs she comments "it's sometimes hard to tell if you are complimenting us or insulting us." His sardonic reply: "Isn't it?"
In between jokes, there is all the Chekovian self-absorption, self-deprecation and self-torture one could hope for. This playwright knows it is always fun to "watch privileged, arrogant people argue endlessly" about meaningless esoteric minutiae? Swiftly directed by Wheelhouse Theater Company's Jeff Wise (Happy Birthday, Wanda June), LIFE SUCKS. is fun theater.
Each member of this cast nicely bears all of the angst boiling inside their characters. As Dr. Aster, Michael Schantz exudes all the charm needed to woo an unsatisfied Ella. Too bad for Sonia he's so desirable and uninterested. Maybe that's why she hates her body, her face and "the lie of literature." Aster tries to advise his dear friend Vanya (Jeff Biehl) who is slathered in despair. The basic message to us all: "if you don't like your life then do something."
My message to you: if you want to chuckle and watch a well-cast set of actors give the Chekhov clan another enjoyably silly update, then do something. Head downtown to The Wild Project and buy a ticket. We're all gonna die eventually. Why not have a laugh or two before then?