Home > Arts & Entertainment > PHOTOS: Reno Little Theater’s ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ is an intense, emotional ride

PHOTOS: Reno Little Theater’s ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ is an intense, emotional ride

By Bob Conrad

The adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s book of real-life advice columns, and inquiries, is a new production at Reno Little Theater. 

Portland-based Strayed, author of “Wild”, wrote anonymously under the name “Sugar” for The Rumpus from 2010 through 2012. Her columns were also turned into the “Tiny Beautiful Things” book and a podcast.

RLT’s production has Kelsey Varahachaikol masterfully playing Strayed’s Sugar doling out virtual advice on some of humanity’s most personal and uncomfortable of issues – the death of a son, being sexually assaulted, stealing from friends and suicide.

It’s not all heavy topics. Moments of laughter were refreshingly as uplifting as the revealing of traumatic experiences was intense.

Four main actors play numerous different characters writing letters to Sugar, many asking for advice and some criticizing Strayed for writing the Dear Sugar column under a pseudonym. 

The most compelling part of the production is Strayed’s firm, compassionate and wise responses to her readers. She discloses as much as they do, except for her name (until the end). 

One section, in responding to a reader who admitted to be a compulsive thief, Strayed as Sugar responds in part with this (which is available in full on The Rumpus):

“I don’t like the thief part of my narrative either. I struggled mightily with whether or not I should write about it here—it’s the first time I’ve written about it, ever. I made Mr. Sugar repeatedly tell me that it was okay, and even though he assured me it was, I’m scared. I’ve written about all sorts of other ‘bad things’ I’ve done—promiscuous sex, drugs—but this seems worse, because unlike those other things, telling you that I used to steal things doesn’t jibe with the person I want you to perceive me as being.

“But it is the person I am. And I’ve forgiven myself for that.

“Years after I stopped stealing things I was sitting alone by a river. As I sat looking at the water I found myself thinking about all the things I’d taken that didn’t belong to me and before I even knew what I was doing I began picking a blade of grass for each one and then dropping it into the water. I am forgiven, I thought as I let go of the blade that stood in for the blue eye shadow. I am forgiven, I thought for each of those fancy soaps. I am forgiven, for the dog figurine and the pretty sweater, and so on until I’d let all the bad things I’d done float right on down the river and I’d said I am forgiven so many times it felt like I really was.”

The dialogue and acting are deep and intense. At times, the theater, during the cast’s final rehearsal on Wednesday, was dead silent; at other times it was howling. Whether laughing or crying, “Tiny Beautiful Things” will move you. 

RLT advises that the play has mentions of sexual assault, suicide ideation, self harm, child abuse, miscarriage and death.

Disclosure: Darcy Lenardson, who stars as Letter Writer #2 in this production, is This Is Reno’ newsletter editor.

Details

By Nia Vardalos
Based on the book by Cherl Strayed

Dates

  • Sept. 30, Oct 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Oct. 2, 9, 16 at 2 p.m.

Directed by: Jessica Johnson

​The show runs about 90 minutes with no intermission. 

Cast

  • Kelsey Varahachaikol as Sugar
  • Bradford Ka’ai’ai as Letter Writer #1
  • Darcy Lenardson as Letter Writer #2
  • Leila Rosa as Letter Writer #3
  • Jennifer Flynn – understudy Letter Writer #2 & #3

Crew

  • Stage Manager: Benjamin Browder
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Keana Hamilton
  • Scenic, Lighting, Sound Design: Chad Sweet
  • Accent & Dialect Coach: Rosie Brownlow-Calkin
  • Intimacy Direction: Adi Cabral 
  • Costumes & Props: Jesse Spooner

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