Gobble Up this Life
By Paul Atreides
Photo by Richard Brusky
In a wild and ostentatious retelling of Checkov’s Uncle Vanya, playwright Aaron Posner takes the characters and delves into modern conundrums of family, friend, and frenemy relationships with Life Sucks.
Now showing at Vegas Theatre Company (VTC), director Daz Weller assembled an extraordinary cast and brought a flawless production fraught with angst and fun. As souls cry out for help and understanding and love among old friends, family members, and ex-lovers, the energy here is high octane. It mixes a shred of drama into the comedy without missing a beat.
Each actor dons their character like a second skin. They all break the fourth wall to engage the audience and slink back to the script without us actually realizing it. From the obnoxious Vanya (Erik Amblad) to the silly Pickles (Amy Solomon), from the pontificating Professor (Timothy Cummings) to the down-to-earth Babs (China Hudson), from the beauty queen Ella (Jamie Carvelli) to the plain Sonia (Amanda Guaredado), to the exhausted Dr. Aster (Nick Huff) there’s not a false note to be found. By turn, each character is lonely, hopeful, lustful, and just the slightest bit hapless in their approach to life.
Each one gets a short scene to themselves. It’s here where both China Hudson and Erik Amblad really stand above the rest. Hudson is magnetic as Babs. When she mentions dirt boys and boots and says, “I would’ve liked to nibble on those,” she manages to convey regret, lust, and hope for life all at the same time. Amblad has a monologue in Act 3 and delivers it with so much truth that you could have heard a pin drop; he’s a master at breaking the fourth wall and improvisation with the audience.
Whitney Lehn Meltz has designed a set that brings the audience right into the home by surrounding the audience with set pieces making the play more intimate and immediate. Jake Harrell’s sound manages to perfectly add to the atmosphere with a mixture of standards, blues, and pop.
This marks the 20th year for VTC (formerly Cockroach) and its 10th year in the space at Art Square. As theatre strives to entice audiences back to live shows after the pandemic, Life Sucks they’ve provided a shining gem to do so. At 2 hours and 20 minutes (including intermission), this production flies by in an instant. The play contains strong language, live (blank) gunfire, and smoking, and VTC recommends this for audiences aged 13+.
Does life suck? Everyone has troubles. Everyone has regrets. Everyone has lost dreams. But, as Hudson says toward the end of the play, gratitude for the successes and the good things should make us want to “eat every morsel of life.”
The performance was SRO for an opening night in the middle of the week. Tickets will disappear fast. Go, gobble this up before it’s gone.
What: Life Sucks
When: 7:30 p.m. 11/1,2,5,11,12,14,18
2 p.m. 11/5,12,13
5 p.m. 11/6,13,20
6:30 p.m. 11/13
Where: 1025 S. 1st St., Suite 110
Tickets: $20 - $38 (www.theatre.vegas)
Grade: *****1/2 Irresistable
Producer: Vegas Theatre Company; Artistic Director: Daz Weller; Director: Daz Weller; Set Design: Whitney Lehn Meltz; Lighting Design: Gina Manago; Sound Design: Jake Harrell; Costume Design: Candice Wynants; Combat Director: Kevin Stevens; Technical Director: Camren Wakefield; Stage Manager: Zachary Krause