'Tiny Beautiful Things' Answers All the Right Questions

by Will Demers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday January 24, 2022

Angela Brazil in "Tiny Beautiful Things"
Angela Brazil in "Tiny Beautiful Things"  (Source:Mark Turek)

Cheryl Strayed used to anonymously write an advice column without pay called "Dear Sugar" for a literary online magazine. Responding to the questions that came in, she answered in a way that could only be described as raw and honest. Drawing on her own life experiences, Strayed was certain that this was the best way to share her own "Tiny Beautiful Things" with others struggling with their own life problems and eventually wrote a memoir with the aforementioned title.

"Tiny Beautiful Things" is the continuation of Trinity Repertory Company's 2021-2022 season following last year's annual holiday production of "A Christmas Carol." "Tiny Beautiful Things" is based on Strayed's book, and adapted by Nia Vardalos, who is best-known for writing "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," but is also a playwright from Chicago's The Second City. In addition to that megahit franchise, she wrote the film "Connie and Carla" as well as her own memoir "Instant Mom" which was a New York Times best seller. The show, which stars company actor Angela Brazil as Sugar, plus her colleagues Phyllis Kay, Stephen Berenson and Brian McEleney as letter writers. Newcomer Jenna Lee Scott and Wilbury Theater resident artist Marcel Mascaro join them as well.

The striking thing about "Tiny" is how flawlessly it translates to the stage; while Sugar's monologs are set in motion by each letter writer, in turn she conveys her own thoughts on how to respond to the questions; it doesn't seem forced or cliche. This is a tribute to Brazil's acting talent, all of the emotion of both the questions and her soul-searching answers are displayed upon her expressive face. And, indeed not just her; Kay, McEleney and Berenson solidly offer each letter imbued with equal gut wrenching gravity. Both newcomers Scott and Mascaro join in with gusto as well.

This one-act play is also bookended by the talented musician Gunnar Manchester playing all original music. A singer and composer as well, Manchester, who sings and plays the violin, was previously part of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. His sweet voice and delightful strains played on his instrument are a welcome highlight. Director Curt Columbus gives this important work the voice it needs and has selected the right cast to convey its messages of hope, grief resolution and most importantly, love. The questions are ones that many of us will have in our lifetimes, and the answers are for all of us.

"Tiny Beautiful Things" is running through February 13th at Trinity Repertory Company 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI 02903. For information or tickets call 401-351-4242 or visit www.trinityrep.com.