Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Las Vegas

Life Sucks
Vegas Theatre Company
Review by Mary LaFrance

Jamie Carvelli Pikrone and Erik Amblad
Photo by Richard Brusky
The Vegas Theatre Company is knocking it out of the park this month with an irresistible production of Life Sucks, Aaron Posner's loopy and heartwarming adaptation of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. The themes may be serious–unrequited yearning, disappointment, and existential angst–but the vehicle is unadulterated fun. Under Daz Weller's masterful direction, this superlative staging, featuring some of the Valley's best performers, tickles the funny bone and tugs at the heartstrings all at once.

Chekhov's style of comedy is notoriously hard for contemporary audiences to fathom, but Posner's self-described "sort of" adaptation takes an off-the-wall approach that ripples with humor while remaining largely faithful to the original characters and their timeless dilemmas. There are moments of meta-theatricality, where the actors acknowledge the conventions of being in a play, as well as audience interactions that showcase the cast's improvisational skills without sacrificing the integrity of the performance. Actors enter and exit from all corners of the venue, putting the audience squarely in the center of this tale of the Everyman.

There are strong performances from each member of the talented cast, combining energy and stage presence with the economy and discipline that distinguish professional theatre. One can sense that there was a rigorous rehearsal process. And a special award should go to combat director Kevin Stevens for not one but two stage slaps that are remarkably realistic.

The beating heart of the ensemble is Erik Amblad, who is outstanding as the woebegone Vanya. Amblad's magnetism permeates the stage, even as the sad Vanya stands vanquished in a corner like a whipped puppy, clutching a single wilting flower. (If this sight makes you want to say "Aw" out loud, feel free. It's that kind of a production.) His sense of timing is magnificent. And his protuberant belly–accentuated by Candice Wynants' costume design–becomes a character in itself.

Whitney Lehn Meltz's set design mirrors the characters' sense that life just hasn't worked out the way it should have, with tables, chairs, and shelves hanging at odd angles, drooping walls, and a ragged textile draped haphazardly across the stage and playing area, doubling as a half-curtain and a threadbare carpet.

Do whatever you can to snag a ticket to Life Sucks. And don't be surprised if you find yourself googling "ocelot" immediately after the show.

Life Sucks runs through November 20, 2022, at the Art Square Theatre, 1025 S. 1st St. #110, Las Vegas NV. Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (no performance on Saturday). Tickets $20-$38. For tickets and information, please visit go to

Vanya: Erik Amblad
Ella: Jamie Carvelli Pikrone
The Professor: Timothy Cummings
Dr. Aster: Nick Huff
Sonia: Amanda Guardado
Babs: China Hudson
Pickles: Amy Solomon

Additional Creative:
Lighting Design: Gina Manago
Sound Design: Jake Harrell