BWW Review: LIFE SUCKS at Epic Theatre, Doesn't Suck

BWW Review: LIFE SUCKS at Epic Theatre, Doesn't Suck

It probably takes a certain level of masochism to spend part of a weekend at a play called LIFE SUCKS, but it's (probably) been proven that watching the struggles of other people makes us feel better about our own circumstances. In the case of this play, viewers can feel doubly smug because it's based on Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, and therefore counts as high culture. Playwright Aaron Posner is making a career of turning the classics on their head--Wilbury Theatre company recently produced Stupid F%&*ng Bird, a play of his based on The Seagull, and there is a lot in the production to enjoy and identify with, even for those not intimately familiar with the source material.

Uncle Vanya is the story of an older man named Vanya who lives on his family's country estate. His older brother is just known as The Professor, and Vanya and a few family members and staff run the farm, while The Professor comes to visit every now and again. The action takes place during Professor's visit, and during a time when Vanya is feeling particular old and bitter, and eventually deeply buried feelings come to the fore. This rewrite follows the action of the original story, but also pauses things somewhat frequently to have the actors interact with the audience. Instead of getting hints of the characters feelings through conversation or longing glances, they tell us straight out, which works sometimes, and other times feels a bit like spoon feeding. The direction of this production is strong overall, and the pacing absolutely perfect for this kind of story. Given the minimal sets, director Christopher Plonka was very canny to keep the actors moving, and manages to create mini setpieces just using chairs placed in different sections of the stage.

There are several strong performances as well. Paula Faber, who was in the Gamm's production of Uncle Vanya this fall is Babs, who is never without a glass of scotch in hand. Geoff White is a world-weary Professor who you half expect to just retire in the middle of the play; Johnny Cicco as Aster is a charming bad influence. By far the most heartbreaking and touching performance goes to Anastasia LaFrance as Sonia, the "plain" niece of Vanya who is hopelessly in love with Aster, but who also is so genuinely sweet and good that you just want to give her everything she's ever wanted. LaFrance manages to embody a character who is so well-meaning that it seems like she'd come off as irritating, but instead you just want to root for her so hard that you almost wish everybody else would just go away (except Laura Ash Benjamin as Pickles, who is also just adorable).

Despite the negativity implied by the title, LIFE SUCKS is a surprisingly hopeful production. There is a fair bit of gloom, but the snappy pacing and pared-down script make this much less of a bitter pill to swallow than one would expect. Like all Epic Theatre productions, you may think you know what you're getting, but you often come out feeling very surprised and delighted.

Life Sucks will be performed at Theater 82 located at 82 Rolfe Square, the home of Epic Theatre Company, on April 13th, April 14th, April 15th, April 27th, April 28th, May 4th, May 5th, May 11th, and May 12th.

Friday, April 13th @ 8pm Saturday, April 14th @ 8pm Sunday, April 15th @ 4pm
Friday, April 27th @ 8pm Saturday, April 28th @ 8pm
Friday, May 4th @ 8pm Saturday, May 5th @ 8pm
Friday, May 11th @ 8pm Saturday, May 12th @ 8pm

Ticket Prices: $20 General Admission, $15 Seniors
Students (High School and College) are Free
Tickets can be purchased by going to
http://www.artists-exchange.org/epictheatrecompany.html

www.EpicTheatreRI.org

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From This Author Andria Tieman

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