An exuberant LIFE SUCKS at Custom Made Theatre
LIFE SUCKS: Comedy by Aaron Posner. Sort-of-adapted from Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov. Directed by Brian Katz, Custom Made Theatre Company, Custom Made Theatre, 533 Sutter St. (at Powell) in San Francisco, CA. (415) 798-2682 or www.custommade.org.
May 5 – June 5, 2019
An exuberant LIFE SUCKS at Custom Made Theatre Rating:
He has done it again. “He” is Aaron Posner and “done it” is sort of adapted from Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, “again” is reference to his adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull titled Stupid F—king Bird (SFB) that had a very successful mounting by the San Francisco Playhouse in 2015. This production of Life Sucks by Custom Made Theatre (CMT) is much more exuberant with farcical patina absent in the more polished SFB. Posner justifies adaptations in SFB by insisting that there are “no new art (playwriting) forms and we should be content with making the old ones better.” A visit to see Life Sucks will give you a chance to test the validity of that assumption.
The use of monologues and direct audience address are paramount to the play’s construction and in Life Sucks it is necessary define who is each character and what is their relationship to each other. It is mostly successful as a theatrical device and even embarrassing when a major character steps forward and asks the audience for a show of hands “Who wants to have sex with me?” using the unwritten vernacular F word.
The evening begins with the entire cast talking to the audience until one character, Sonia (Jensen Power) advising us that the play is about “life, longing and love.” They advise us that Uncle Vanya was written in four acts and would perform the play with an intermission between acts one and two. Between acts three and four they simply step forward and state “End of Act three.” The always inventive director Brian Katz has inserted the idiosyncrasy of a bell attached to the major entrance of the set that each character rings on entering the stage and between scenes.
Posner has kept the names of the characters somewhat in line with those by Chekov. Of course there is Vanya (Evan Sokol) the insecure, ineffective loser who hates the Professor (Dave Sikula). Vanya is in love with Ella [for Yelena] the beautiful young second wife of the Professor. Sonia [Sonya] the daughter of the Professor’s first wife who with Vanya manages the estate. She has an infatuation (she calls love) with the doctor. Middle aged, world weary Doctor Aster [Astrov] (Gabriel Montoya) who also is in love with Ella. An impoverished next door neighbor Pickles [Waffles] (Brittany Nicole Sims) who lives on the estate. Lastly Babes (Linda Ayres-Frederick) a ceramic artisan and sort of earth mother within the play.
With this modern adaptation of the Chekhov play Posner does bring us into modern times demonstrating the universality of self-image subjugated to foibles of our surroundings. He softens the hurt by having each character, late in the play, expressing the three things that they hate and love and get on with our life rather than be an Uncle Vanya, a Dr. Aster, a Sonia or an Ella by complaining about it.
The cast respond to Brian Katz spot on directing earning individual accolades within an ensemble format. It is in tune with Chekov’s philosophy suggesting we listen to earth mother and get on with our lives even though Life Sucks it is all that we have.
Running time is about two hours and 10 minutes including the intermission.
CAST: Linda Ayres-Frederick – Babs; Gabriel Montoya – Aster; Jensen Power – Sonia; Brittany Sims – Pickles; Evan Sokol – Vanya; Emily Stone – Ella; Dave Sikula – Professor.
CREATIVE TEAM: Director, Brian Katz; Scenic Designer, Daniel Bilodeau; Costume Designer; Rachael Heiman; Lighting Designer, Tina Johnson; Sound Designer, Bruce Viera; Properties Designer, Tom O’Brien; Fight Choreographer, Jon Bailey; Intimacy Choreographer, Maya.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com