Categories: THE BUZZ

THE BUZZ: Layered Looks: A Costume Analysis of “Tiny Beautiful Things”

Article by Kristen Schweizer

February 25, 2019

Sugar [Opal Alladin] enters The Old Globe stage in joggers.

Joggers, if you don’t know, is just a marketing term for sweatpants.

Despite being on-trend again, said joggers did not match Sugar’s pilling sweater or her embarrassing slippers. Costume designer Shirley Pierson dressed the lead actress in an ensemble that reminds us of lazy Saturdays.

This realism sets the tone of Tiny Beautiful Things: the outfit (and mood) that we don’t post on social media.

However, Sugar is no stranger to the facade of the internet. As an anonymous advice blogger, her heart-wrenching letters are a peek at the hurting masses of the internet. The 90-minute stylized monologue cycle is guaranteed to make you chuckle before punching you in the emotional gut.

Jabs are delivered via a coiffed trio in Instagrammable outfits.

The versatile players [Keith Powell as Letter Writer #1, Dorcas Sowunmi as Letter Writer #2, and Avi Roque as Letter Writer #3] arrive dressed in coordinated color, noteworthy layers, and proper tailoring.

Unlike Sugar, their outfits are the kind that you see in store windows.

In the same way that we hide behind screen names, we hide behind fabulous cardigans. And, much like life, it is the seemingly put-together people who are most broken.

As the chorus slides from character-to-character with professional ease, inner-and-outer layers peel away.

The cathartic show serves a buffet of raw questions while simultaneously providing a ‘fourth wall’ to protect from uncomfortable eye-contact. Like the internet, theater is almost real.

Vulnerability is currency on stage and online, but it is something else in reality. This is reflected in the costumes, pacing, and real-life ending.

The play culminates in a ‘reveal’ that the audience already knew: Sugar’s real name.

While Sugar was quick to reveal a history of heroin abuse and divorce to her readers, the author had more at stake. Cheryl Strayed [yes, the one that Reese Witherspoon played in the hiker movie] revealed her online identity in 2012.

Does the world want to hear the blisteringly honest words of a formally-addicted, once-divorced mom with a mountain of debt?

It seems, from the popularity of the book Beautiful Little Things and this stage adaptation by Nia Vardalos, that we do. The Old Globe’s production has been extended through March 17 and regional theaters across America are scheduled to produce the script in 2019.

Real emotion is unavoidable and beautiful. This bittersweet show is staged in the round to remind us that we are not alone in any of it. Tiny Beautiful Things invites us to open our doors and to introduce ourselves.

Even if we greet each other in joggers… or just sweatpants.

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Vanguard Culture

Vanguard Culture is an online media entity designed for culturally savvy, socially conscious individuals. We provide original interviews and reviews of the people, places, and events that make up San Diego’s thriving arts and culture community, as well as curated snapshots of the week’s best, most inspiring and unique cultural and culinary events. We believe in making a difference in the world, supporting San Diego’s vibrant visual and performing arts community and bringing awareness to important social and community causes.