Ends Dec 10

Tiny Beautiful Things

Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Disappointing, Thought-provoking, Resonant
72
Critics
66
39 reviews
Members
74
114 reviews
 

The Public Theater presents an encore run of this comedy starring Oscar nominee Nia Vardalos and based on the eponymous book by best-selling author Cheryl Strayed. Directed by Tony winner Thomas Kail ('Hamilton').

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Vardalos is Sugar, an anonymous online advice columnist (later revealed to be Strayed) whom thousands of people have turned to for words of wisdom, honesty, and hope. At first unsure of herself, Sugar finds a way to weave her own life experiences together with the deep yearning and real problems of her readers, creating a beloved column about the monstrous beauty, endless dark, and glimmering light at the heart of being human.

 

Cast & Creatives (14)



Reviews (153)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
66
Avg Score

80
The New York Times

"A handkerchief-soaking meditation on pain, loss, hope and forgiveness…'Tiny Beautiful Things’ turns out to provide an ideal catharsis for those suffering from the various deep-dyed blues…This production is not a successful narrative play in any conventional sense. But it works beautifully as a sustained theatrical exercise in empathy…The cast members endow their characters with distinguishing individuality and, more important, a connective emotional transparency." Full Review

65
Theatermania

"An emotional (and slightly sappy) new play that compellingly theatricalizes the act of giving and receiving advice…Unfortunately, as performed by Vardalos, this radical sincerity often comes across as completely false…Vardalos' costars are more successful…While Sugar's sweeter moments are likely to send some viewers into a diabetic coma, 'Tiny Beautiful Things' captures its subject succinctly and effectively." Full Review

80
BroadwayWorld

"Warm, funny and endearing...There's no plot to the 80-minute piece and very little drama in the traditional sense...With no dramatic through-line, Vardalos and Kail establish rhythms and tension by balancing the funny with the emotional, the quick Q&As with the lengthy confessionals...As Sugar, Vardalos is continually touched, amused and amazed by her readers...hoping that they'll always see themselves as deserving of life's tiny beautiful things." Full Review

20
The Hollywood Reporter

"A lackluster theatrical piece...Director Kail provides little theatricality to the static proceedings...Vardalos, looking suitably unglamorous, is appealing as always. But she can’t breathe life into her inherently passive, responsive role...By the time the seemingly interminable proceedings reach their conclusion, you’ll be mentally dictating your own letter to Sugar, asking how to erase the memory of monotonous evenings in the theater like this one." Full Review

80
Theatermania

"A tiny beautiful diamond of a show...In a theatrical setting, this built-in sense of remove is a dangerous constraint, but a risk that ultimately maintains the enchanting purity of 'Tiny Beautiful Things.' Even more so than on the page, the play offers a meditative rhythm of delivery, acceptance, and response: There's a completeness of thought in every letter... It's the novelty of thoughtful dialogue — and the realization of its near extinction — that will make you weep." Full Review

60
Time Out New York

"Watching the awkwardly constructed but incredibly moving 'Tiny Beautiful Things', I realized my powers of analysis were being drowned out...My brain kept protesting that these multiple 'translations' (Internet to book, book to stage) weren't working: Vardalos is rather too cool; Strayed's language is better on the screen/page; the show's convention of having letter writers ask questions...can be annoying. But Strayed's advice knocks you down with its avalanche of kindness." Full Review

65
New York Magazine / Vulture

"‘If this were drama, the SAT would be Chekhov. But then drama, at least the traditional kind, does not seem to be what anyone was after…Lacking intrinsic momentum, the show’s 90 minutes can’t help but unreel a bit stuporously, despite Kail’s typically careful balancing of tempo and tone. That the show nevertheless keeps your interest is mostly a tribute to the acting…If this is a classic ‘why?’ endeavor it still has plenty of powerful moments in which you are persuaded ‘why not?’" Full Review

80
The Huffington Post

"Whether it be the revisions, the cast changes, or simply the luxury of two months of prior playing time, 'Tiny Beautiful Things' plays considerably better now than the first time round...What was formerly admirable and well-meaning is now a heart-tugging, emotionally rewarding evening with no qualifications...Vardalos takes Strayed’s book and translates the magic to the stage." Full Review

75
Variety

"Some may find the show little more than a multi-character, well-written Ted Talk, and its rhythms and anecdotes too predictable...But Kail creates a graceful, fluid, low-key dynamic that has those letter-writers inhabiting Sugar’s everyday world. The stories they tell, the anguish they feel and the questions they ask are quiet cries for help, and Sugar is there for them because she is one of them...In this shared experience, love and forgiveness is all — and sometimes, just that is enough." Full Review

85
New York Theater

"Unbearably moving…’Tiny Beautiful Things’ inspires such strong emotional reactions that the awkward set-up winds up not mattering much…What’s most startling and rewarding about her stories is not just that they are told well, but that they are applied to advice-seeker’s dilemmas to which they don’t on the surface seem relevant…Is it too schmaltzy to call this play a tiny beautiful thing?" Full Review

45
Lighting & Sound America

"An advice column doesn't really a play make...Strayed can turn an elegant phrase...But there's no drama here, no development, no increasing complexity or deepening of feeling. It's just a series of questions and answers, and even the deep empathy of the latter after a while becomes a little bit dull. Vardalos, who has a natural stage presence and the skill to make a pause in the conversation vibrate with unspoken thoughts, goes a long way toward holding our interest." Full Review

60
Theatre's Leiter Side

“Even as well performed as the show is…85 uninterrupted minutes of it is asking for trouble. It's the kind of material many people prefer to read in dribs and drabs…; on stage, though, with one letter and response following the other, with the letter writers being generalized figures (only subtle hints differentiate one from the other), and with the only dramatic tension residing in what the next letter might say, there's plenty of room for boredom to invade the premises.” Full Review

45
AM New York

"A well-meant but messy and unnecessary stage dramatization…Vardalos, Kail and Marshall Heyman made an unusual and creative attempt to inject a series of essays with a dramatic spine, giving the actors a big set to play around with and having Vardalos convey the author’s own emotional journey over time through subtle acting choices. However, the question-and-answer cycle quickly becomes repetitive and makes for a long and strained 80 minutes." Full Review

45
Talkin' Broadway

"The questions are gorgeously intoned by Brannon, Narciso, and Woolams-Torres…But intoning those questions is, essentially, all they do. To the extent drama occurs along the way, it's found in the gradual peeling away of the layers of artifice Sugar builds up around herself to defend against the dangers of Internet anonymity…Is that journey enough to power a full evening, even one this comparatively short? For me, no." Full Review

85
New York Daily News

"The play, adapted by and starring Nia Vardalos, upends expectations. It’s provocative, poignant and rich — and at 75 minutes reminds that very good things come in ‘Tiny’ packages…Vardalos, who plays Sugar, plus Phillip James Brannon, Alfredo Narciso and Natalie Woolams-Torres, breathe life into various advice seekers, give fine, feel-real performances. Director Thomas Kail sets the action in a lived-in home that might be or have been yours, mine, anyone’s. That’s the point." Full Review

75
CurtainUp

"These three actors are so good they bring these epistolary exchanges closer to creating the real human connection for which the internet will never be a substitute. Vardalos not only steps into Ms. Strayed's shoes with grace and feeling but has done a good job of trimming, adding and reorganizing some of the material. The book's most heart-wrenching segment rounds out the piece with a get-out-your-handkerchief moment...Handsomely staged and warmly performed." Full Review

85
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Vardalos delivers a powerful performance as Sugar...Under Kail’s fluid direction, the actors offer authentic performances, giving each character a believable personality…Attending a performance of 'Tiny Beautiful Things' is like seeing dozens of plays whose characters, conflicts, settings, and themes change with every twist of the kaleidoscope revealing the tiny beautiful things that make us human, and vulnerable, finite, and resourceful–full of grace and truth.” Full Review

87
Front Mezz Junkies

"The ordinary miraculousness of this play is still solidly and most definitely entwined intensely inside every moment...It’s almost shocking how we can be so thoroughly engaged so quickly into these personal pleas for help and guidance...It feels utterly genuine and sometimes profound. It’s a beautiful piece of work Vardalos has created, not insignificant in the least." Full Review

80
Front Mezz Junkies

"This group of gifted actors portraying all sorts of characters reaching out for advice from ‘Sugar,’ pulls us skillfully and honestly into their stories and predicaments. It’s almost shocking how we can be so thoroughly engaged so quickly into these personal pleas for help and guidance…It feels utterly genuine and sometimes profound. It’s a beautiful piece of work Vardalos has created, not tiny at all, although as a ‘play,' I struggled with the forward drive and momentum." Full Review

40
Newsday

"Vardalos has an unaffected, straightforward steadiness and a compassionate face to match someone who presumes to answer pleas for help...Perhaps to distract from the 80-minute play’s static, monotonous, confessional quality, the letter writers wander the place looking at knickknacks...Meanwhile, Sugar reveals her own life traumas and comes up with uplifting psychobabble about healing and accepting 'the authentic you'...It’s just too sappy to be theatrical." Full Review

65
Bob's Theater Blog

"Vardalos portrays Strayed with no-nonsense directness…Each time one of the other actors appears, he or she is playing a different person so there is little opportunity to build a character…Sugar’s answers come out in polished prose. I would have preferred reading them at my leisure over hearing them on a stage…Thomas Kail’s direction tries hard to enliven a basically static situation. I admired all the good intentions, but I found the effort ultimately misguided." Full Review

25
The Wrap

"The goopiest play of the year. In comparison, ‘Love Letters’ is Chekhov...I kept waiting for these letter writers to feel so much better about themselves after listening to Sugar grovel in her sordid past, and be done with her. But no. Sugar has learned from life’s trials and mistakes, and passes on those lessons free of charge (except for theatergoers) with her tight face scrunched into the deepest empathy and bathed with tears, lotsa tears." Full Review

60
Talkin' Broadway

"While the play delivers a number of emotionally moving moments, it is difficult to get past the fact that the characters who seem to be interacting are at a remove and unknowable...Director Thomas Kail has brought the stories as far off the page as possible...But no matter how much affection and design went into the production, it remains a nagging truth that none of the interaction is really taking place...In the end, it is less of a play than a book talk." Full Review

80
Wolf Entertainment Guide

"With a compelling stage presence, Vardalos portrays Sugar...Vardalos puts plenty of feeling and sincerity into Sugar’s personal responses. Occasionally the back-and-forth becomes a bit wearisome, as all of the inquiries aren’t dealing with momentous problems, but there are also significantly poignant moments...The content runs the gamut of human experience and difficulties." Full Review

55
Broadway & Me

"There's no narrative...Kail moves everyone nicely around Rachel Hauck's homey set, but I got antsy after the first 15-minutes. That’s partly because I’m not big on the pop psychology that gets peddled in most advice columns. But it’s also because most of the show's dialog sounds like the kind of aphorisms you might find on posters at your local yoga studio...But that’s just me. Most of the folks seemed enraptured...So the decision about whether you should see it is up to you." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
74
Avg Score

71
Ambitious, Great acting, Quirky, Relevant, Slow

See it if You enjoy slow plays without a linear story line. This is an advice column read out loud- masterfully. Well acted and beautifully executed.

Don't see it if You need a linear story and don't enjoy random snippets of story and a lot of just standing around.

75
Funny, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Interesting, Quick

See it if You like fixing other peoples problem and Dear Abby.

Don't see it if You are expecting a light evening of theatre.

91
Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Intense, Resonant

See it if you want a talky play that has something to say.It had me in tears at the end, but there was a lot of laughter before that point.Very moving

Don't see it if you want a play with traditional plot.This is series of Dear Abby type letters, but on a deeper emotional, philosophical level. Excellent

53
Indulgent, Disappointing

See it if Your bookcase is filled with self help books.

Don't see it if You have difficulty with self indulgence or diabetes.

80
Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant, Moving, Thoughful

See it if Brief insights to the problems & lives of stressed people and the central character and poignant stories with excelllent acting is for you

Don't see it if You need a linear plot arc with few characters or you are turned off by a succession of personal problems

82
Ambitious, Great acting, Resonant, Slow, Moving

See it if you'd enjoy a play that's not a linear narrative so much as an original, affecting portrayal of the human experience. The acting is spot-on.

Don't see it if you don't enjoy outside the box theater.

85
Poignant, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You like quiet, intelligent theater without a linear plot. Acting was superb! Play was powerful.

Don't see it if You are looking for traditional two act drama.

69
Banal, Disappointing, Overrated

See it if you want to "see everything"

Don't see it if you are expecting deep profound and moving

75
Resonant, Slow, Warm, Wise, Weepy

See it if Advice columnist comes to terms with her own grief, regrets, and mistakes in life through interactions with her followers. Enlightening.

Don't see it if Plods along due to lack of character development, conflict, and plot. I checked my watch about an hour through. Enjoyable in a low key way.

75
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Great staging

See it if Feels like a theatrical exercise and lacks narrative development but is a deeply emotional very deep dive into empathy and shared humanity

Don't see it if You need narrative development and don’t like any hint of raw emotion and sentimentality

74
Banal, Cliched, Great staging

See it if You like the Chicken Soup for the whatever series. It is great life advice. I heard sniffles in the audience.

Don't see it if Self help books are not your thing. The play is like a sel help book on steroids.

90
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Great writing

See it if you liked the EST training. At my age (74) it was particularly meaningful. Full house deadly silent for 80 minutes

Don't see it if you are an insensitive dolt

74
Cliched, Fluffy, Monotonous, Advice driven

See it if you like monologues done by some talented people. Or are a fan of Cheryl Strayed.

Don't see it if you are not a fan of a show that's non-narrative and is only monologues. Or see something dealing with advice columns.

79
Thought-provoking, Profound, Refreshing, Relevant

See it if you are a Cheryl Strayed fan. The acting is great, the staging is unique, the writing is profound.

Don't see it if you don't want to see a play in the vein of Dear Abby. I found it pretty great, but I could see how it might rub some people the wrong way

Also Not sure that this needed to be made into a play, but I enjoyed myself... Read more Read less

83
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Resonant, Excruciating

See it if you're a fan of Cheryl Strayed or the book, you enjoy non-linear and non-plot-centric shows, you need a good public cry

Don't see it if you want a linear story and plot with an arch, you don't like being emotionally incapacitated in public

68
Thought-provoking, Disappointing, Cliched, Monotonous, Self-helpy

See it if You are a Nia Vardalos fan -- though her performance is flat here. Like to think and hear about life's trials and ways of reframing them.

Don't see it if You are impatient with monologue after monologue -- with each being responded to by an advice columnist.

Also This doesn't hold together for 90 minutes. 45 would have been plenty..... Read more Read less

83
Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining

See it if you like deep insights into being human.

Don't see it if you are looking for action.

65
Thought-provoking, Disappointing, Cliched, Slow

See it if you are a fan of Cheryl Strayed or Nia Vardalos.

Don't see it if This is not a play; this is a dramatic reading of an advice column turned into a book.

76
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy well crafted vignettes exploring the human experience; willing to have the feels

Don't see it if You want a traditional play with a linear plot

83
Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Resonant

See it if If you enjoy a good , complex story about people's lives. Beautifully written and produced. Bravo to the cast!

Don't see it if If you enjoy only musicals or light dramas.

65
Disappointing, Cliched, Dated, Fluffy

See it if you want to see one woman basically reading aloud from the self-help section at the bookstore.

Don't see it if you want more depth and character interaction, or a fully fledged out story.

95
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Refreshing, Great staging

See it if You want a talented cast working through the human condition. Be prepared to ugly cry as "Sugar" works as an advice columnist.

Don't see it if You want a linear play or a full on comedy.

68
Thought-provoking, Cliched, Entertaining, Fluffy

See it if you like to read advice columns or enjoy hearing about various human struggles. Material probably most resonant if you're a mother/have kids

Don't see it if you're looking for a play with a storyline, not just a bunch of vignettes, you're expecting this to be very insightful or fresh

84
Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great writing, Triggers all of your emotions

See it if "Dear Abby" comes alive, are interested in the effects responses may have on troubled souls, or enjoy storytelling thru a series of letters.

Don't see it if Would not like a potpourri of issues in a "dear Abby" style, if you do not enjoy small venues, or if you want a large scale production.

95
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great writing

See it if This is a performance piece rather than a traditional play. Riveting stories in the form of advice columns. Moving with light, funny moments

Don't see it if This is not a traditional play in terms of structure, narrative and character. More like mini vignettes strung together by "Dear Sugar"