The Sagas of Suresh, in Creases and Pieces

A double-feature grows up with its central character, in a co-production from ReAct Theatre and Pratidhwani. Animals Out of Paper runs through May 19; Letters of Suresh runs through May 18 (extended from May 12). 


All he can do is pick up the pieces. 

That’s where we find Suresh, a teenager lost and adrift in Animals Out of Paper (2008), and a similarly adrift young adult 12 years later in Letters of Suresh (2021), both by Pulitzer finalist Rajiv Joseph. They’re both on stage now, in rotating rep, from ReAct Theatre and Pratidhwani.  

In the first chapter, Suresh lands in professional origami crafter Ilana’s mess of a studio. It’s isolated, without a window, and strewn with detritus — a fitting metaphor for her strewn, and above all isolated, life. (She laments, dryly, “I crawl into a hole for two months and the only person who notices is the treasurer for American Origami.”) 

Instinctively picking up the studio, it’s not all that different from what he knows at home. His family, left rudderless after his mother’s sudden and unsolved death (by a hit-and-run driver, never found), can’t manage even the basics without him. If he’s not home to prep and cook and serve the meals, apparently, everyone starves. 

And then there’s his high school calculus teacher (“Frodog” to Suresh), whose life is chronicled dutifully on pages and pages of a worn blue notebook, in numbered list form. Like everything else, “count your blessings” is something Mr. F takes quite literally; from age 12 to now, he’s amassed over 8,000 of them. In physical pain or unlucky in love, he’s somehow found the positive. But as he goes out on a limb and makes a couple of new, albeit well-intentioned, messes, has he finally found the thing he can’t spin into a bright side?  

Animals Out of Paper leaves us dangling in something of a mystery, but it doesn’t feel unresolved. The production here uses a rotating cast; and at the performance I saw (designated the “orange cast”), the characters fit together just as boldly and awkwardly as you’d want them. Their lives aren’t neat, and they’re not supposed to be. They’re all are at very different points, in some ways pivotal ones, but each is still just figuring things out. 

The years-later sequel, Letters of Suresh, has a much different feel. Its characters are complicated, yes, but their messes feel more deliberate, convenient and forced, versus bumpy and human. Its delivery in epistolary form — none of the characters interact with each other in person (a single video call is as close as they get) — likely doesn’t help.

And what’s missing is as obvious as what’s there. In Animals Out of Paper, Suresh is arguably the least compelling character (or, it’s safe to say, certainly not the only interesting one). But Letters of Suresh ditches the other two, pivoting only to him while adding a menagerie of ancillary characters. In this new construct, at some points, we don’t care; at others, we’re left to wonder. 

Happily, this production is one where the actors are better than the material, producing characters we’d like to hear more from: an impressively grown-up, and a bit more conscientious, Suresh (Nirvan Patnaik); a layered Amelia (Marianna de Fazio), with some choices and changes ahead of her; an intriguing Melody (Mona Leach); and a mysterious Father Hashimoto (a fantastic Stephen Sumida), who’s a man of great certainty — and doubt. We might not care where every letter goes. But at least the cast gives a stirring payoff.


‘Animals Out of Paper’, directed by Julie Beckman. Performed by two casts: Duygu Erdogan Monson (Ilana), Daniel Christensen (Andy or “Frodog”), and Akul Sood (Suresh) (orange cast); and Joyce Thi Brew (Ilana), Laurence Hughes (Andy), and Tanish Telukunta (Suresh) (purple cast). Run time: 1 hour 50 minutes, with intermission. 

‘Letters of Suresh’, directed by David Hsieh and Julie Beckman. Run time: 1 hour 40 minutes, no intermission. 

Animals Out of Paper (through 5/19) and Letters of Suresh (through 5/12) perform at 12th Avenue Arts on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Tickets are $36 per show or $45 for both (discounted tickets for artists also available), here. Accessibility notes: restrooms are multi-stall; there is one single-stall, gender-neutral, accessible restroom near the theatre entrance. Theatre and common areas are wheelchair accessible.

Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of