Life Sucks is Definitely the Best Interpretation/Work Around/Mash-Up of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya

This Re-Work by Aaron Posner and Directed by Rob Lutfy will Guarantee a Fun Experience with Laughter, Tears, Interaction, and Food for Thought.

Currently Running at Cygnet Theatre until February 27

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti or my box office name at Cygnet "Alexandro Enisco"

Emily Chackelford, Beatrice Basso. Photo Credit: Karli Cadel
You know how they say that "first impressions are lasting impressions"? or "first impressions are almost impossible to change"? Well, that was my experience with Uncle Vanya. The expectations I had for the production that I saw at the time, were definitely not met. Later I saw a little snippet of Cate Blanchet at the Lincoln Center in New York and my curiosity peeked again but, the damage had already been done...

So, as excited as I was reading the title Life Sucks because I highly agree, especially going into the third year of this crazy vortex, then I read what it was about and hesitated...thankfully, the production proved me wrong and I just love when that happens. There was a rough start during opening night because their light switcher was misbehaving yet, that gave it an added flare. Immediately when you come into the theatre, Yi-Chien Lee's gorgeous set design comes through. It follows the patterns you could say of Vanya, but it also adds a woodsy look with a ginormous quilt hanging from the ceiling and lamps around the stage corners with chairs. Very cool. 

The cast from the beginning starts interacting with the audience while ping-ponging and complementing each other when speaking. At the beginning of the first act, I felt it to be a bit slow, but then by the half-hour, it picked up quickly, and the rhythm became dynamic. Audiences do not have to be familiar with Uncle Vanya to enjoy this piece but, if they are, there will be an added value for sure. Aaron Posner cleverly plays with the writing of Vanya including some of the usual suspects like Vanya (MJ Sieber) and Sonya (Sonia in this production-Savanna Padilla), as "O.G's" let's say, and then does a remix with the rest like Dr. Aster (Jorge Rodriguez), The Professor (Frank DiPalermo), his wife Ella (Emily Shackelford), Babs (Patty Gallagher) and Pickles (Beatrice Basso). There is a male character named Waffles in Chekhov's, so to have one named Pickles that is female, I thought was awesome. 
Cast of Life Sucks. Credit Karli Cadel

The play within a play morphs into a forum of introspection and analysis. It goes back and forth between scenes from Uncle Vanya and solid, serious moments along with fun, funny ones. Ella for example is this gorgeous woman that is also way younger than her husband. She could be perceived as a gold digger and is probably being unfaithful. Posner flips that card and gives the character so much more in a plot where half the cast is either in love with her or wants to get into her pants. Ella confronts the situation and asks what is it that makes her be attractive to practically everybody and then questions the audience's fidelity amongst other things. Sonia is frustrated while being stuck in her dad's house holding down the fort with a depressed and maniac Vanya as well as being in this unrequited love with the hot Dr. Aster. who wants to get into Ella's pants and is struggling with alcohol.The makeover with Sonia is empowerment and voicing all the expectations there are for women as well as lifting each other instead of shaming. Same with Pickles and Babs where they share from their perspective, not being taken seriously, not reaching certain goals, and being corresponded. The Professor between his persona of a difficult theatre director and the older husband with a gorgeous wife also tackles ageism and the fear of growing and being old. 

The cast is a great ensemble. They work well together and they look great together too thanks to Shirley Pierson's gorgeous costume designs. Each character definitely has its personality printed on the wardrobe. When you have a great cast like this, you have great direction like Rob Lutfy's, where they gave us bold, tender, and funny; they also serve as a guide through complex questions that are resolved in the house making the audience a part of the ensemble as well. Yes, life definitely sucks but pieces like this make it definitely more fun adding the wonderful advice that when life does give you lemons, you add vodka. Priceless.

Life Sucks is currently playing until February 27. For ticket info and surrounding activities, please click HERE. 

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