Review by David Walters
“What do you want?”
“That is the quintessential question.”
If you haven’t answered that for yourself, Life Sucks now playing at Wild Project, 139 East 3rd Street, may be able to help you, or at least put you on a path to self-discovery. If we look at it honestly, life is often filled with feelings of boredom and despair and we often forget to ask certain key questions about the whys and wherefores that brought those feelings on. You will be asked in this production.
It’s a light and airy play made out of the building blocks of life, presented with doses of humor poking fun at the ridiculousness of our views of ourselves, our relationships, and our desires. Sometimes schmaltzy, farcical, sometimes a little pushy and redundant, you can’t but help to take what’s happening on stage in front of you and layer it on to your own precious life.
Not that the play is a therapy session, but each evening of this New York premiere of Aaron Posner’s Life Sucks is only as good as the audience seeing it.
It’s a responsibility, I know, but as you’ll find out if you haven’t already, so is your life.
Sort of adapted from Chekov’s Uncle Vanya (If you don’t know that play, don’t let that stop you from seeing this one. Seeing this made me go back and watch a version of Vanya again having gained some insight.), audience input and reaction is key to the takeaway experience and is instrumental in how you’ll feel about this play.
Right out of the gate the fourth wall is broken and you’ll be told what the play is about, what to look for, and how each character feels about what is about to happen (mortality, love and longing, loss, not getting what you want, aging).
The play is one set (a room cleverly framed by the backsides of flats from an Uncle Vanya play). It’s Sonia’s (Kimberly Chatterjee) house that was left to her by her deceased mother. Her mother’s best friend, Babs, (Barbara Kingsley), her “aunt” Pickles (Stacey Linnartz), and her uncle Vanya (Jeff Biehl) all live in the house with her. Her uncle’s best friend from childhood, Dr. Aster (Michael Schantz) is a constant visitor. Sonia’s mostly absent from her life father, a professor (Austin Pendleton), and his much younger wife, Ella, (Nadia Bowers) have come for their yearly visit.
Ahh, family and all that ensues.
Through the course of the days and evenings, desires, stolen kisses, insults, the fact that life does suck sometimes, things to hate, self-image, love being real or man-made like football and what we imagine ourselves to be are thrown about, sometimes caught, often dropped, but passionately debated and all posited that we are the causes of our own, and those around us, malfeasance.
The cast works together very well, especially in two-person scenes, bringing their personal angst and touches to the characters as they go through the travails of their wants and desires adding levity to their earnestness. I thrill when an actor surprises me with their choices. I was surprised numerous times.
Life Sucks doesn’t suck in the slightest (easy I know, but I had to do it). But, as is with the real thing, it’s what you bring to it and what you put into it.
So, bring your whole honest self to this production. Put yourself into it and maybe you’ll get something important out of it that you can really use because this one go at it is all you’ve got.
Life Sucks, by Aaron Posner; directed by Jeff Wise; produced by Wheelhouse Theatre Company
With: Jeff Biehl (Vanya), Nadia Bowers (Ella), Kimberly Chatterjee (Sonia), Barbara Kingsley (Babs), Stacey Linnartz (Pickles), Austin Pendleton (the Professor), and Michael Schantz (Dr. Aster)
Set Design by Brittany Vasta; Costume Design by Christopher Metzger; Lighting Design by Drew Florida; Sound Design by Mark Van Hare
Running time approximately 120 minutes with one intermission
Now through April 20, 2019, tickets here.