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HomeOperaTouching 'Tiny Stunning Issues' offers good recommendation at Baltimore Middle Stage

Touching ‘Tiny Stunning Issues’ offers good recommendation at Baltimore Middle Stage

There’s nothing extra common in regards to the human expertise than desirous to be really heard and understood, even when by just one individual. And, if that individual could provide some useful recommendation, even higher. However it’s the listening, the acknowledgment, that’s elementary and that’s so rigorously explored in Tiny Stunning Issues at Baltimore Middle Stage. Primarily based on Cheryl Strayed’s recommendation column “Pricey Sugar” and tailored for the stage by Nia Vardolos (My Huge Fats Greek Marriage ceremony) and co-conceived by Marshall Heyman and Thomas Kail, the play is stuffed with tiny stunning issues certainly however might use a bit extra cohesion.

The play has solely the slightest of plots: A author who is meant to be ending her e-book for publication takes on one other writing job, turning into an unpaid (and untrained) recommendation columnist, a Pricey Abby kind for the twenty first century. (Suppose extra F-bombs and fewer purse-clutching over minor fake pas.)

That’s nearly the entire story of the following 75 minutes.

A trio of letter writers — expertly performed by Caro Dubberly, Evan Andrew Horowitz, and KenYatta Rogers join with the recommendation columnist Sugar by way of their questions: Hear. I’ve a narrative to inform. And I would like some recommendation. By the issues they share, we encounter humanity in all its glory, complexity, and contradictions.

Dubberly, Horowitz, and Rogers are all very robust of their multifaceted roles, turning into the numerous letter writers by way of refined costume modifications (brown, tan, beige, and khaki outfits designed by Moyenda Kulemeka), a brand new posture, voice inflection, or accent change. They share the standard mundane conflicts of life; they inform outlandish tales of “loopy ex-girlfriends” or indulging in horny Santa fantasies; they share heartbreaking tales of narcissistic fathers and the silent struggling of miscarriage. They increase the questions that many people within the viewers have had about ourselves and {our relationships} with others.

KenYatta Rogers, Erika Rose, Caro Dubberly, and Evan Andrew Horwitz in ‘Tiny Stunning Issues.’ Photograph by J Fannon Pictures.

In one of many longest and later vignettes, Rogers fantastically turns into “Residing Lifeless Dad,” a father who painfully and tearfully lists all of the ways in which the grief for his son is consuming his life. (In case this isn’t but evident, the play offers with many tough points, together with a number of descriptions of graphic sexual assault, baby abuse, drug abuse, suicidal ideation, consuming problems, transphobia, and extra.)

Sugar responds to their issues by creating deeply private essays about her personal various life experiences, slowly winding a manner again to the writers’ points by way of self-reflection and interrogation. By revealing herself so intimately to others, she asks her readers to look deeper into themselves for his or her truths to information themselves; to heal, develop, be taught, do, turn into.

Erika Rose as Sugar in ‘Tiny Stunning Issues.’ Photograph by J Fannon Pictures.

As Sugar, the all the time improbable Erika Rose is a revelation. She fantastically approaches every response to a beleaguered author another way, by turns turning into a caring maternal determine, a no-nonsense sassy greatest good friend from a rom-com, a sidekick for enjoyable shenanigans, and a sage thinker. Along with her sensible smile and radiance of heat, Rose creates a trusting confidant in her depiction of Sugar, and together with her “radical sincerity,” we need to heed her recommendation. She shares her personal secrets and techniques with us, too, from the causes of her first failed marriage, to her transient however painful interval of heroin abuse, to her ongoing love and grief for her mom, who died when each had been nonetheless so younger. Not like Ann Landers or Miss Manners or another nearly ethereal, infallible advice-giver, Sugar is an overtly flawed and complicated girl, all the higher to reply a few of life’s thornier points with honesty and authenticity.

After sharing a lot of herself underneath her nom de plume for the literary web site The Rumpus, New York Instances bestselling writer Cheryl Strayed (Wild, Torch, Courageous Sufficient) introduced herself because the columnist, finally compiling the letters into the gathering Tiny Stunning Issues (revealed in 2012). (Along with this play, Tiny Stunning Issues is being launched in April as a Hulu sequence starring Kathryn Hahn.)

Due to the formulation of the recommendation column, we by no means see the successes or failures of the recommendation; the recommendation seekers solely exist in just a few transient moments, discussing their historical past and their present issues, however we by no means see a future for them. This epistolary framing makes for a problem of making movement and breaking monotony in what is actually a sequence of monologues and dialogues. Director Ken-Matt Martin performs it a bit too safely right here, permitting the tales alone to create the battle and characters, as an alternative of enjoying with what could possibly be extra dynamic staging.

Erika Rose, KenYatta Rogers, Caro Dubberly, and Evan Andrew Horwitz in ‘Tiny Stunning Issues.’ Photograph by J Fannon Pictures.

There’s ample alternative to assume creatively about the best way to body every new letter vignette. At occasions, this manufacturing does that deftly: Sim Carpenter’s scenic design with lighting by Sherrice Mojgani and sound by Jeff Gardner permits the set to duplicate a pc’s motherboard exhibiting the fixed flood of incoming messages Sugar receives. At different occasions, the set rapidly transforms right into a café or a subway automotive — the place every patron, barista, and rider turns into an recommendation seeker troubling Sugar with their issues.

In an particularly impressed scene, an overwhelmed Sugar tries to wind down for the night with a glass of wine and TV, however readers come out of the fridge, sit at her desk and on her couch bombarding her with questions. Nonetheless, many occasions readers simply seem upstage on a sequence of raised platforms like a Greek refrain — distant and static — whereas our protagonist stands downstage partaking with the viewers. And solely as soon as does Sugar — who so typically shares that life and love is all about reaching out to others — truly attain out and embrace one in every of her readers. How can we make all of those experiences and tales significant onstage?

Tiny Stunning Issues is in the end a touching and therapeutic examine of humanity, generosity, and small gestures of connection and therapeutic, however attributable to its epistolary type, it stays underwhelming as a dramatic work.

Working Time: Roughly 75 minutes, no intermission.

Tiny Stunning Issues performs by way of April 2, 2023, at Baltimore Middle Stage – 700 North Calvert Road, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, name the field workplace at (410) 332-0033, or buy them right here.

This system for Tiny Stunning Issues is on-line right here.

COVID Security: Baltimore Middle Stage’s present coverage contains mask-optional performances on Thursdays, Saturday evenings, and Sunday matinees, and mask-required performances on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturday matinees. Throughout these performances, masks could solely be eliminated in designated consuming and ingesting areas. For extra COVID-safety info, please go to right here.



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