MARION — “Tiny Beautiful Things” is full of tiny beautiful moments that speak huge volumes about issues large and small.
I just wish the play, adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding Fame,” could present its messages with less profanity. One running gag built around a popular social media acronym was hilarious in the skilled hands of David Morton, but too many other times, the swearing just grew tiresome and gratuitous.
That aside, the show was fully embraced by an enthusiastic audience invited to Thursday’s final dress rehearsal at Giving Tree Theater. It continues through March 10.
The premise is delightful. An online advice columnist who is weary of the gig reaches out to a published writer/author, asking her to take his place as Sugar. She agrees, and the letters come pouring in.
Each scene begins with “Dear Sugar,” then launches into a whole letter, a snippet of a letter, or sometimes just an angry shout. Sugar, played with expert subtlety by Lynne Rothrock, provides the voice of reason as she walks each writer through an analysis that just makes so much sense that you wonder why you didn’t think of that answer.
Sugar is the Dear Abby for a new age. An age where people ask the hard questions and demand some hard answers. Where the language is as raw and coarse as the emotions and memories flung into cyberspace and landing with Sugar.
How do you deal with years of pent-up frustration or resurfacing memories of physical and/or sexual abuse; drug abuse; downward spiraling grief; adolescent angst; eating disorders; gender identity; guilt; and of course, love in all its many forms, functions and dysfunctions.
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Joining Morton in the letter-writing ensemble are Katie Starks, who recently returned to Iowa from working the Minneapolis theater scene, and Jacob Kostiv, who recently appeared in “Pride and Prejudice” at Giving Tree. All three are gifted in physical humor and a chameleon-like ability to shape shift into another completely formed character at the drop of a hat.
They kick down the wall separating letter writer and recipient, moving freely through the home setting designed by Richie Akers,
Giving Tree’s co-owner. He has given director Amy Kaduce lots of nooks and crannies, rooms and doorways that allow her to have the letter writers burst into a scene or retreat into the shadows.
Audience members will see themselves or people they know throughout the show, which clocks in around an hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission to break the stream of consciousness.
The situations and physicality offer just enough laughter to punctuate the silence that hangs through the heaviest heartaches.
With so many gems of wisdom to hold in your heart long after the applause dies down, these are some of my favorites:
“Be brave enough to break your own heart.”
“The healing effects of people who have gone through the same thing cannot be overestimated.”
“The way to get unstuck is to reach out — get it out, talk it out, cry it out.”
“We must let the people who love us see what made us who we are.”
“‘No’ is golden. It sets boundaries. It lets you choose what you want to share.”
“Forgiveness creates a channel for your rage and another for your love.”
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The show strings together all these pearls of wisdom into a necklace that will adorn your spirit, not choke it.
l Comments: (319) 368-8508; firstname.lastname@example.org
IF YOU GO
l What: “Tiny Beautiful Things”
l Where: Giving Tree Theater, 752 10th St., Marion
l When: Through March 10; 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
l Tickets: $26, Giving Tree Box Office, (319) 213-7956 or Givingtreetheater.com/products/tiny-beautiful-things
l Rated: PG-13 for language and adult themes