Tiny Beautiful Things – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

If you were struggling with debts, it might be wonderful if you were offered a new job. But what if the opportunity was something you had never done before and were not suited for and, more importantly, offered no compensation. Why would you rise to the challenge and accept? Ask Cheryl Strayed who suddenly found herself answering to the title “Sugar” as a new advice columnist. Think Ann Landers meets Dear Abby with a lot of frank, honest, gritty, in-your-face responses.

Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven is serving up a multitude of questions and clever answers until Sunday, March 10 as “Tiny Beautiful Things,” based on the book by Cheryl Strayed, adapted to the stage by Nia Vardalos and co-conceived by Marshall Heyman, Thomas Kail and Nia Vardalos entertains the mind.

Cindy Cheung’s Sugar is a no-nonsense, shooting from the hip, part psychologist, part heartfelt confessor who relishes solving conundrums with friendly advice and personal reflections. Having a colorful past that involved heroin addiction, a complicated relationship with her mother, and various love interests, she can identify with a woman who suffered a miscarriage, understands loneliness and needing to reach out to others to find a support group and who acknowledges her own unwhole parts.

Sugar is beseeched by questioners Paul Pontrelli, Elizabeth Ramos and Brian Sgambati who want to know how to cure any number of personal issues, from wanting to escape a bad marriage, how to resolve parental problems when you reveal transgender decisions, how to handle addictions like alcoholism and drugs, what to do when a relative continually abuses you and, most poignantly, how to recover from the loss of your only child and learn to live again.

With a bottle of beer in one hand and a computer in the other, on a New England Cape Cod house designed by Kimie Nishikawa, Sugar does her best to respond with an open and caring heart. Ken Rus Schmoll directs this unusually revealing conversation between strangers who desperately want to fix their broken psyches.

For tickets ($35.50-75.00), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

As letter writers articulate their problems and Sugar digs deep in her own soul to respond, healing takes place on both sides of the answers.