Brilliance Abounds in “Every Brilliant Thing”
In 2013 the world changed just a little bit. The change was imperceptible, and the results of that change cannot yet be measured. But the results so far are dramatic. Duncan Macmillan presented his play “Every Brilliant Thing” at the Ludlow Film Festival. The one-man show starred Jonny Donahue, a British comedian. The interactive and immersive piece has the copyright listed as 2016 because the improvisational aspects allowed the contribution of the actor to determine some of the fine points of the play. That will continue, and the original script states that the play is by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe. The fine-tuning will continue as the play is in production. And each actor appearing will put his own stamp on the show, as will audience members. It is a given that no actor performing in this piece would want to alter the brilliance of Macmillan’s concept and poignancy in lines delivered. Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre is presenting “Every Brilliant Thing” through September 22, 2019 at CitySpace Theatre in the Civic Center Music Hall. The production stars Jon Haque.
When Artistic Director Don Jordan conceived the idea of presenting this show to Oklahoma City audiences, he suspected he already had the perfect actor for the role in the person of Haque, Business Manager at CityRep. Auditions were held and Jordan’s initial thoughts were realized: Haque is an exceptional actor and the perfect person to bring this subject to life.
“Every Brilliant Thing” is about life…and death. It is the story of a man who grows up in a household not unlike yours or mine. His mother is depressed, but he doesn’t realize that as a youngster. However when he is only seven years old, her depression takes control and his reaction to her attempt at suicide is the theme and plot of the show. His young self makes a list of reasons to celebrate life. The interactive part of the play occurs when audience members are greeted by Haque before the show begins. They are given pieces of paper that have different things listed. Each slip of paper is numbered—and during the show Haque will call out that number, and the person with that piece of paper will then read what is written out loud. Additionally, some members may be asked to play a very simple role in the show. This is, of course, voluntary, but participants will find it to be extremely easy with Haque’s gentle guidance.
Linda K. Leonard directs “Every Brilliant Thing” with a great deal of experience. “Every Brilliant Thing” is the eleventh show at CityRep for Leonard. She recently performed in a one-woman show, “Ann,” by Holland Taylor, as Governor Ann Richards of Texas. Thusly, Leonard has hands-on experience in creating a one-person presentation with liveliness and grace. There is a great deal of leeway in developing the show with relevance to the audience, so this “Every Brilliant Thing” production is done as if it all takes place in Oklahoma. The set, designed by Don Jordan, is adapted to reflect this. Technical director, Ben Hall, has re-created a partially furnished attic in an older Oklahoma City home. Lighting designer, Scott Hynes, sets the mood—as does the sound design by Marcellus Hankins. Behind the scenes, the contributions of production stage manager, Steve Emerson, as well as properties design and assistant stage management by Michael Corolla are crucial to the overall production. The costuming from Jon’s Closet reveals a man who is comfortable in his clothes as well as his skin.
Haque’s brilliant portrayal gives us an essential aspect of depression: it always gets better. (No, it doesn’t, because that is a matter of perception.) Actually, there is always hope. But for many, there is a feeling of overwhelming hopelessness that pervades. Hope is hidden. In “Every Brilliant Thing” the character knew exactly what to do at the age of seven. When people are in trouble it is important to help in any way possible. But it is more important to help yourself first; otherwise, you may not be able to provide the assistance that is needed by others.
“Every Brilliant Thing” is an important piece of theatre, performed magnificently by Haque, with superb direction by Leonard, and crucial support from technicians and staff. Among those providing invaluable assistance in research and gathering materials is dramaturg, Anna Holloway. Additionally, the production benefits from the consultancy provided by Greenhouse Foundation. Therapists from Greenhouse will be available for discussion after the show, should any audience member wish to meet and talk with them. Prior to the performance, Holloway is available for questions—along with Haque—and many other members of the production team.
Suicide is a sensitive subject and must be handled with extreme delicacy. The CityRep Production team handles “Every Brilliant Thing” beautifully. As theatre, this is a show that everyone should see…but not necessarily by September 22, 2019. Some people may be strongly affected by the subject matter and might want to wait until a later time to see the show. If there is any doubt among potential patrons about attending, or bringing a friend or relative who wants knowledge in this area, attending “Every Brilliant Thing” should be given serious thought. It may be exactly what is needed, but, it might be the wrong time for that person. The visiting that takes place prior to the show is important; otherwise, this tremendous production could become ‘ambush therapy’ for someone else attending, and it does not.
There is a great deal of humor in the show. Yes, it will make you cry, but it will also make you laugh until you cry. Bring a hankie. Bring an open mind and a loving heart. “Every Brilliant Thing” plays from September 6 through 22, 2019 at CitySpace (downstairs) in the Civic Center Music Hall at 201 North Walker Avenue. Curtain is at 7:30 pm for evening performances and the matinee time is 1:30. It is a great idea to come a little early to visit with Jon Haque or Anna Holloway. Remember, participation is voluntary! Visit www.cityrep.com or call the box office at 405-594-8300.