Cheryl Strayed's 'Tiny Beautiful Things' Makes It To The Stage
Feeling confused, stuck, crushed and desperate? (Who isn’t these days?) Then “Tiny Beautiful Things,” the stage adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s collection of empathetic advice columns that she wrote for an on-line literary magazine, might just be your theatrical balm. This well-staged adaptation, starring Nia Vardalos and directed by Thomas Kail (“Hamilton”), will attract the popular writer’s many fans who have passed on her book to friends and relatives, and should also be a sought-after title for other venues looking for a theatrical hug in turbulent times.
Some may find the show little more than a multi-character, well-written Ted Talk, and its rhythms and roundabout anecdotes too predictable. There’s a certain wariness that comes from being in a room too long — even at a mere 80 minutes — with someone who has all the answers.
Strayed, who wrote the advice column under the pseudonym Sugar, is no Ann Landers, who gave practical counsel, snap-out-of-it slaps and directions to experts in the field. Instead Strayed offers insight by way of her own personal experiences, which are just as intimate, painful and harrowing as the letter-writers’ own.
Conceived by Vardalos (who stars as Strayed), Kail and Wall Street Journal columnist Marshall Heyman, the production is a straight-forward presentation of those Q and A’s from the columns. Epistolary exchanges on stage are always a challenge to make theatrically satisfying — wouldn’t books-on-tape work just as well?
But Kail creates a graceful, fluid, low-key dynamic that has those letter-writers — all experiencing pain, grief, anger and shame — inhabiting Sugar’s everyday world, always part of her consciousness, memory and work-a-day life.