In the middle of all this turmoil is a middle-aged, grumpy, single man named Vanya who bemoans his fate and a younger woman, Sonia, his niece, sharing living space at her father's estate and not much else.
A group of old friends, ex-lovers, estranged in-laws and lifelong enemies gather to grapple with life's thorniest questions and each other. What could possibly go wrong? Just wait and watch as these hapless souls collide and stumble their way towards a new understanding in “Life Sucks,” playing May 13 to 15 and 20 to 22 at Allens Lane Theater, 601 W. Allens Lane.
In the middle of all this turmoil is a middle-aged, grumpy, single man named Vanya who bemoans his fate and a younger woman, Sonia, his niece, sharing living space at her father's estate and not much else. Then there's Sonia's father and his beautiful third wife, Ella. Sonia longs for Dr. Aster, her uncle's best friend, while he and others lust after Ella.
If the plot sounds a bit familiar, it should. Aaron Posner's “Life Sucks” is sort of an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's ”Uncle Vanya.”
Posner has kept the basic premise of the play largely intact, only now the action has moved to the United States. As the actors break the fourth wall, speaking directly to the audience, cracking jokes and making contemporary references, Posner reminds us that there is no date stamp on our feeling stranded between regrets and hopes or between fancy dreams and the banality of existence.
Directed by Robert Bauer, who has also managed to carve out a fun role for himself in the production, we find Connecticut native Kiera Sheehan, who takes the role of Sonia. At age 23, Sheehan is making her Allens Lane debut as well as her Philadelphia stage debut in this play.
Sheehan said she essentially grew up in the theater, spending her childhood in the rehearsal room of her parents' company, Capital Classics Theatre Company.
“Basically, it was a way for them to babysit me when school was over, but I didn't mind one bit,” Sheehan said. “In fact, that's when I began acting and dancing and learning so much from so many people that it paved the way for my future career.”
Later, when the time came for Sheehan to attend high school, Sheehan enrolled in the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts for dance, but quickly decided to switch to acting. And still later, she enrolled in the Hartt School at the University of Hartford, where she ultimately received her bachelor’s degree of fine arts degree in actor training.
“That was in 2020,” she said. “Not very good timing for an actress trying to get started in the field because that's when COVID was shutting everything down. So looking for another place that might afford me an opportunity, and because I had family already living here, I decided to move to Philadelphia. Philly is not like the New York theatrical scene. I felt there might be some more opportunities here.”
And if there were, they were not easy to come by. Before getting the role of Sonia, Sheehan kept body and soul together by working as an administrative assistant, which she continues doing even today when not on stage. But because of the opportunity she received from Allens Lane, she is on stage these days.
“It's all been so magical,” she said. “From existing for two years not knowing whether or not the theater would ever come back to an art form I had devoted my life to, I finally find myself so happy and fulfilled. I've never given up on my dreams, and I urge others not to give up either! You have to trust in your work and in yourself. Then I do believe someday it will all pay off.”
Order tickets at allenslane.org or call 215-248-0546. Rita Charleston has been writing local theatrical feature articles for the Chestnut Hill Local for 20 years.