Entertainment » Theatre

Life Sucks

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Apr 17, 2018
Life Sucks

The cast of Epic Theatre Company's "Life Sucks," Aaron Posner's updating of Anton Chekhov's classic "Uncle Vanya," had the difficult task of following the Gamm Theatre's recent first-rate production.

Due to the skilled direction of Chris Plonka (who appeared most recently in Epic's production of "Marshall"), as well as actors who display fabulous chemistry, "Life Sucks" succeeds in capturing the spirit of Chekhov's story.

Justin Pimentel is note-perfect as the witty and brutally sarcastic Vanya, who is driven mad by his relatives and friends who are all sharing a house in the country.

Vanya is a bitter man who wallows in self-pity. He feels like his life has never amounted to anything and spends his days in an emotional stupor.

Vanya's gregarious best friend Aster (nicely played by Johnny Cicco) along with the non-nonsense Babs (the always excellent Paula Faber) try to motivate him to get out of his funk and do something worthwhile with his time.

Besides the excellent work from Pimental, Hannah Lum also exhibits a charming radiance as Ella, a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage who is bemused by the adoration from Vanya and Aster.

Lum has some effective scenes with Anastasia LaFrance as the lovelorn and deeply insecure Sonia, who is in love with Aster.

Geoff White generates sympathy as the tormented Professor, who laments the pitfalls of aging in a poignant monologue. It is one of the play's highlights.

Laura Ash Benjamin expertly plays the troubled and eccentric Pickles, who never recovered from losing the love of her life. Pickles notes the feelings she had for others never really went away. It is a profoundly sad moment.

There are many deep truths revealed in "Life Sucks," which shows the desperation of these characters in their quest for happiness.

Posner is mostly faithful to Chekhov's text, although he throws in some unique twists. The characters all take turns sharing things they love and hate. There are also some contemporary cultural references, such as when Aster ponders the absurdity of treadmills.

Staged in Theatre 82's Black Box space, the production has no sets but doesn't really need them. We are taken into this world through ideas and emotions.

Plonka turns the experience of "Life Sucks" into an interactive one by having the actors directly address audience members and ask them questions about the choices they would make.

"Life Sucks" examines the universal human need to find fulfillment in life. Some people manage to accomplish it, yet Vanya, Aster, Ella, the Professor, and Sonia are all stuck in a state of inertia. This could have ended up being an unbearably tedious and depressing experience to sit through, but Posner's snappy and imaginative dialogue combined with the high spirits of these performers result in a compelling and heartfelt theatrical experience.

So the question to ask is: does life have to "suck?" The message we get here is that our lives can turn out for the best when we make the effort.

"Life Sucks" runs through May 12. Epic Theatre Company. Theatre 82 and Café, 82 Rolfe Square, Cranston, RI. For more information, visit www.epictheatreri.org.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.


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