Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog

Cohort Report: Tiny Beautiful Things
September 26, 2019, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Tiny Beautiful Things

By MRT Cohort Lorraine Cassista

The Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) is now in full swing with their first show of the season, Tiny Beautiful Things. What an opener! While you may encounter a few chuckles, this is most definitely a tear jerker so bring your tissues. The play tugs at your emotions with a wide array of scenarios that don’t come with an easy answer or even a full understanding of how things can go so terribly wrong.

Tiny Beautiful Things is based on the real life, two-year period of Cheryl Strayed’s life as Sugar, the secret advice columnist of an online magazine called The Rumpus. You may remember Strayed’s story of her 1,100 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail portrayed by Reese Witherspoon in the movie, Wild.

The need to stop destructive behaviors, find your true spirit and put your life back together again are just a few of the heart-wrenching questions Strayed received during her two-year stint as a life and love advice columnist.

The play is set in Sugar’s home. It is a well-designed set with the feel of a real living space. Sugar goes about her chores while mulling over questions from her readers. The letters come from ordinary people who are distraught, angry, bewildered, sincerely hurting and wanting to find answers to their seemingly unsolvable emotional pain. Some have experienced love and loss, miscarriages, broken marriages, infidelity, sexual assault, and rejection.

What makes Sugar so unique is that she delivers her responses from her own emotional upheaval and pain. While she doesn’t always have the answers, she listens and gives advice, not from the head but from the heart. Her responses are personal and intimate based on her own sometimes painful memories.

As an audience, we get drawn into the questions and the answers and can often relate to either the situation or the pain. Toward the end, at least the last 20 -25 minutes, you could hear a pin drop. The only other sound was that of sniffles from the audience, men included. That final scene of grief is raw and penetrating. You can feel the pain and the gradual healing path of both Sugar and the author of the letter; he from the loss of his son and she from the death of her mother.

We all experience the pain of human suffering in one way or another. We struggle to make sense of it all. Oftentimes it is not advice we are seeking. More often we seek someone who listens, truly listens with empathy and compassion while holding space for us to really feel our feelings. Tiny Beautiful Things holds that space just as much for the audience as does for its characters.

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