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Review: LIFE SUCKS Doesn't Suck at Big Idea Theatre

Review: LIFE SUCKS Doesn't Suck at Big Idea Theatre

Big Idea Theatre has brought this tale to life with a mishmash of quirky personalities and underground flair.

Thanksgiving this year was a wonderful gathering at home, enjoying the riches of food and family. Ironically, the next night was spent ruminating about how Life Sucks. This work by playwright Aaron Posner is a modern adaptation of Anton Chekhov's 1898 play, Uncle Vanya. Big Idea Theatre has brought this tale to life with a mishmash of quirky personalities and underground flair.

At first glance, Life Sucks looks like it might, well, suck. Depressive temperaments and entitled egos can make for a tiresome two hours, but Posner livens up Russian modernism by adding adult alliteration and laughable lines of lustful longing. Indeed, the characters jump off the stage, beginning with the "pedantic prick" of a pontificating professor (William Oberholtzer), whose career in "phenomenology of whatever the f***," leads him to barrel over everyone in his life, including his own wife. Beset by "pain, weight, indulgence, and depression," his "life sucks." Played by Christi van Eyken, trophy wife Ella (Chekhov's Yelena) is a frustrated feminine figure who is plagued by insecurity despite holding a Ph.D. (also in whatever the f***) and the lustful attention of every male (and vegetable) in the show. Too much attention and not enough self-reflection makes her "life suck." Not feeling the love is her stepdaughter, Sonia. Skillfully portrayed by Sarah Rothaus, Sonia is plain, pathetic, and passionate about the doctor (who isn't?). Without his love, "life sucks." Virile and fickle, the doctor (Stephen Samuels) is free to come and go, leaving a trail of broken hearts and a lot of f-bombs behind him. His life doesn't suck. Coping with the loss of her love is the painfully despondent puppeteer, Pickles (Bethany Hidden). When she tries to put a band-aid on her grief, she also realizes that "life sucks." Watching everything unfold like a wise owl, perched slightly above the chaos, is sturdy, dependable Babs (Christine Nicholson). She's got the temperament of a Buddhist monk and the discernment to know exactly what to say and when to say it. Her life doesn't suck. Life does actually suck for the titular character, Uncle Vanya (Earl Victorine). Slightly hysterical, morose, and overtly self-destructive, Vanya is a hot mess - a brilliant mind without social cognizance.

The ambiguity of the ending will have you thinking and wondering - does life suck? If so, is it of our own doing? What can we do to change it? What do we really want? Continuing the conversation, the cast asks the audience to consider finishing a sentence. When you hear the words "life is," what immediately comes to mind? I say life is beautiful. Life is an adventure. Life is too short to see every play I want to see. Life doesn't suck, and neither does Life Sucks.

Life Sucks plays at Big Idea Theatre through December 17. Tickets may be found at BigIdeaTheatre.org or by calling (916) 960-3036.

Photo credit: C. Banks



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