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OCT's 'Tiny Beautiful Things' opens season after pandemic hiatus

Eric Braman, Tracy Nygard, Patrick Dizney & Chelsey Megli (from left to right)
Oregon Contemporary Theatre
Eric Braman, Tracy Nygard, Patrick Dizney & Chelsey Megli (from left to right)

Live theater is springing up in Lane County like a phoenix rising from the flames. You’ll need to show proof of vaccination and wear a mask, but that’s a small price for the thrill of joining friends and fellow theater-lovers to watch actors performing onstage after such a long hiatus.

Oregon Contemporary Theatre has opened its season with Tiny Beautiful Things, adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos from the book by Cheryl Strayed. After Strayed wrote Wild, the best-seller about her famous trek on the Pacific Crest Trail, she took over an online advice column called Dear Sugar. As the anonymous Sugar, she doled out advice that was tough, funny and bravely based on her own screwed up past.

Tracy Nygard creates a Sugar who is smart and strong enough to help the advice seekers while still dealing with her own pain. Not surprisingly, her viewpoint is a far cry from Dear Abby.

Patrick Dizney, Chelsey Megli and Eric Braman play all the troubled people, whose problems range from puny to life threatening. Adroitly directed by Inga Wilson, the actors represent random genders, emphasizing that sorrows and fears are gender neutral. Sugar’s advice may shock you, and then convince you of the ultimate kindness of honest discourse. Her exchanges with the outstanding Dizney are especially poignant, although a bit drawn out at the end.

Eric Braman & Tracy Nygard
Oregon Contemporary Theatre
Eric Braman & Tracy Nygard

A few blocks away, at Actors Cabaret, Elf, the Musical stars Eric Milligan, a former Springfielder who made his career in New York theater and TV. John Schmor’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol is opening soon at the University of Oregon, and the Shedd will present Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn. Yes, let’s celebrate the season with live theater!

Dorothy Velasco has reviewed productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for KLCC since 1985.