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“Tiny Beautiful Things” at Chance Theater

Updated: Apr 20

The beautiful, female-centric show is a theatrical hug for turbulent times.

By Anne Reid

“Tiny Beautiful Things” follows the relationships between an anonymous advice columnist named Sugar and the real-life readers who pour out their hearts to her. It is based on the best-selling book of the same name by Cheryl Strayed (now a Hulu series, starring Kathryn Hahn) and adapted for the stage by Academy Award nominee Nia Vardalos (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”). As adapted by Vardalos, Strayed’s book has been turned into an uplifting play that surges with emotion and was called by Variety “a theatrical hug in turbulent times.” The show is about reaching when you’re stuck, recovering when you’re broken, and finding the courage to ask the questions that are hardest to answer.

While simultaneously beautiful and shattering, according to Chance Literary Manager James McHale, the play is brutal in its honesty. “In sharing true stories of grief, hope, pain, forgiveness, loss, and love, it has the power to make you feel connected to the strangers around you and know that you are not alone. And it has the power to uplift you. To challenge you to reach out when you feel broken, to forgive yourself or others, and to be brave, brave enough to love.”

From Left: Jonathon Lamer, Jennifer Richardson, Aubrey Saverino and Sam Mistry (Photo by Francis Gacad)

The play has powerful, beautiful, delicate, and personal stories. Part of what makes the show special is that while it is deeply moving, it doesn't feel overly sentimental, clichéd, or campy. It's because Sugar's replies to the questions she receives often come with such specificity, honesty, and a personal story of her own; stories that expose her pain, mistakes, self-reflection, and love. 

That makes this play a great fit for Director Katie Chidester according to McHale. “I think Katie is a real empath, which makes this play perfect for her to lead.” 

“The Chance approached me about this show after I directed ‘Matinicus: The Story of Abigail Burgess’ last year. It was such an honor to bring that show to life, a world premiere that was commissioned by Chance during the COVID shutdown,” said Chidester. With that experience under her belt, she was ready to take on something new. “I am drawn to female-centered stories and female-written plays - this is my passion as a director,” she said. “This play is based on an epistolary novel by a struggling woman writer and then adapted for the stage by a woman. It revolves around a strong, opinionated, messy, empathetic, and complicated female character.”   

“Ultimately, this show feels like it’s a true representation of what theatre is - exploring collective empathy in real-time in an actual physical space together,” Chidester continues. While you sit in the audience and hear about the struggles and chaos of real people and their obstacles you might think they don’t affect you. “I might not be able to relate to this direct issue but someone in this room, right now, does," she said. And it’s that – the power of knowing – that an individual in your physical space may desperately need to hear a bit of advice to feel seen, heard, understood, and less alone. “It’s quite powerful how if that individual is ourselves! This show elevates the experience beyond passive watching but actively engaging in connection and compassion.”

From Left: Jonathon Lame, Aubrey Saverino and Sam Mistry (Photo by Francis Gacad)

The show is in a traditional proscenium on Chance’s Cripe Stage with the audience on one side facing the set. “We're creating an interior of the main character's home. But the play is a very stylized, nonrealistic structure - people emailing each other are having real-time, in-person conversations,” said Chidester. The play has a very specific color palette - while the world is recognizable and familiar, a monochromatic color heightens the environment, almost like an art installation. “We chose orange for a few reasons, it felt warm, creating a space that could be safe to share and vulnerable,” she explained. “The set was designed to represent the main character, Sugar, she's bold and sentimental - sometimes like a warning sign and sometimes eccentric.”

Aubrey Saverino shines in the role of Sugar. Saverino previously starred in Chance Theater’s OC premiere of “Cry It Out” in the role of Jessie (OCTG Outstanding Lead Performance Nomination) and in the world premiere of “Matinicus: The Story of Abigail Burgess” (OCTG Outstanding Lead Performance Nomination). “Aubrey, playing Sugar, is an incredibly gifted actor,” said McHale. “She can be so grounded while also making dynamic choices and having incredible presence.”

From Left: Jonathon Lamer and Aubrey Saverino (Photo by Francis Gacad)

The rest of the incredibly talented cast depicts writers in Sugar’s advice column who reach out when they are at their lowest and most vulnerable. Jonathan Lamer assumes the role of Letter Writer No. 1, recently seen in Chance’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.” Letter Writer No. 2 is portrayed by Jennifer Richardson, known for her appearances in Chance’s “Striking 12” and “Fun Home.” Finally, Sam Mistry, making his debut at Chance, portrays Letter Writer No. 3.

“Tiny Beautiful Things” kicks off on April 5 with four pay-what-you-can previews at the Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center on the Cripe Stage. Opening night is officially Saturday, April 13 at 8 pm. There also will be an Empowerment Community Night on April 19 starting at 7 pm.

Anne Reid is a writer, public & community relations expert, and theatre mom.

“Tiny Beautiful Things”

Chance Theater @ Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center

5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, CA

April 5 - 28, 2024

(888) 455-4212,

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