Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Strayed's “Tiny Beautiful Things” Gives Permission to Ask for Help.

Unless you live in an alternative universe asking for help, for yours truly anyway, is one of the most difficult things to do. Asking for help from friends or family is even harder. But evidently not when it comes to strangers especially a stranger you cannot see, like a Dr. Ruth or an Ann Landers or a Dear Abby. 
Opal Alladin as Sugar
So when Sugar, or ‘Dear Sugar’ no first name, last name and sans experience took on the non paying job of offering on line advice to perfect strangers, it changed her life and those who took a chance and reached out for something/someone to soothe their heavy hearts.

Cheryl Strayed, author “Torch”, “Brave Enough” and  “Wild”, published her best selling “Dear Sugar”, based on her anonymous relationships with her advice seekers, it literally took on a life of it’s own.

Academy Award winner Nia Vardalos (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) adapted the book to stage and is now in an excellent west coast premiere production (James Vásquez) at the Old Globe Theatre/ Sheryl and Harvey White, through March 17th.

Sugar” is excellently played by Opal Alladin giving her advice from her home (Wilson Chin) in between sorting laundry, making lunches for her family, washing dirty dishes left from over meals, picking up toys and eventually returning to her computer from time to time to respond to on-line questions.

L to R. Avi Roque (#3), Keith Powell # 1. (Dorcas Sowunmi #2) Opal Alladin (center)
She is the one constant as the letter writer”#1, #2 and #3 (Keith Powell, Dorcas Sowunmi and Avi Roque) take on several characters. All in due time and convincingly so, they come on to the scene, sometimes one at a time oft times all four are on the stage together.  

They are not touching and it almost feels that they are the only ones there.  They move about taking drinks from the fridge while at the same time the give and take of those asking for advice, the answers are given in turn sometimes making eye contact sometimes not.

If you have ever read any one of the Dear Advice Columns you can expect stock answers. At the outset, Sugar was never one of those types.
After contemplating what another advice columnist would say, she came to the conclusion that most writers wanted to hear the ‘truth’ as when one writer talks about the last words her mother said was ‘love’; “She was 45 and sick and weak she couldn’t muster up the ‘I’ or ‘You’ but it didn’t mater”. 

Dorcas Sowunmi 
From the heart Sugar always responded by telling her own story about her own mother’s death and how powerful the word ‘love is’ and “tackle the mother fu**ing shit out of love.  Look we’re all going to die. Hit the iron bell like its dinnertime.”  Or the letter writer WTF was his contribution.

Sugar always seemed to hit the nail on the head when responding. To some: “Dear All Of Us Who Want To Please,” or “I’m 34 years old and I’m transgender, I was born a female but I knew I was meant to be a male”, and the questions keep coming.

Opal Alladin
Some stories are  difficult to listen to as when a youngster was sexually abused by her grandfather, or the best advice I’ve given is ‘forgiveness’.  

Until finally a bereaved father (an over powering performance by Powell) wrote a list of twenty-two reasons why he can’t go on after the death of his son. “How do I become human again?” Sugar answers each question by the numbers, finally; “Make something of your sons legacy and make it beautiful.”

Thoughtfully directed and staged by James Vasquez in the intimate theatre in the round with solid help from Amanda Zieve’s lighting, Melanie Chen Cole’s sound design and Shirley Pierson’s cozy and casual costumes, “Tiny Beautiful Things” is a shared collection of heartbreak, fun and acceptance performed and acted, in this 90 minute show and tell, if you will play that leaves each of us, who don’t write to Dear Anyone, to reflect on our own behaviors and stories that we tell ourselves.

Opal Alladin and Avi Roque
My heart jumped a few beats when at the end she shares this: “A little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.
Yours Sugar..

Keith Powell (writer #1)
Hats off to the Od Globe with two winning shows back to back in both theatre's. (Familiar closes on the 3rd of March).

Definitely worth a try.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through March 17th
Organization: The Old Globe Theatre
Phone: 619-234-5623
Production Type:
Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA 92103
Ticket Prices: $Start at $30.00
Web: theoldglobe.org
Venue: Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre
Photo: Jim Cox


  1. Mellowed by this profound knowledge of letting go, middle-aged love is less arrogant,more abject and more philosophical. Unlike in the first flush of youth when love is at the very first sight and its demise is at the very first slight, love, if it at all happens at this age, is rather with a philosophical construct, than with a person.
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