If you love ice cream, you are not alone. It’s the #1 thing on the Narrator’s list of “Every Brilliant Thing” by playwright Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahue.
Lists are good things to keep you on track. My late husband made lists every day. Until his death, I thought they were an exercise in futility. Now I make my own. So there ya go! But all lists are not created equal.
In Duncan Macmillan and comedian Jonny Donahue’s one man (plus audience participation) play “Every Brilliant Thing” now on stage at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town through Sept. 16th, the playwright explores topics most don’t discuss in public, like depression and suicide. The emcee of sorts leading the discussion is Ro Boddie with fine feel good direction by Rob Lutfy.
He sets the stage: “The list began after her first attempt. A list of everything brilliant about the world. Everything worth living for.” It all started when he was seven.
He was removed from class and taken to the hospital by his father who wasn’t quite sure the what’s of his seven year old. His mother was being treated for life threatening depression.
“Why? and Why? And Why?” were the cries of this youngster when nothing in the world felt right especially when his cat had to be treated at the vet and the ongoing illness of his mother took center stage most of his life. His highs and lows continued long after her death when she succomed to suicide.
How to tell this story that lasted throughout his childhood and into his adult life, attending college, through a marriage that showed promise, but in the end crumbled under the weight of all he knew to be true?
Make a list of all that’s brilliant, meaningful and beautiful. Keeping in mind that ‘beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
1. Ice cream.
2. Water fights.
3. Staying up past your bedtime.
4. The color yellow.
324. Nina Simone’s voice.
823. Skinny Dipping
1,000,000. Listening to a record for the first time (“Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall”)
Don’t be misled, though. Contrary to what I had envisioned, this 80 minute piece found and took on a life of its own as patrons, those willing and or signed up before the show, were given scratches of paper, empty envelopes, etc. with a number that coincided with a number the star would shout out and then proceed to read off and Boddie never lost sight of where he was in his family’s saga treating it with gentleness and compassion.
First to the school councilor then to the vet (both chosen from the audience) and on to his college girlfriend Sam, another member from the audience that for all intents and purposes could very well have been an actor, so into it was she. Another audience member chosen to be his father was also an excellent contender as leading audience member of the night.
Keep in mind the list started off as a child’s fantasy looking for ways to prevent his mother from depression and thoughts of suicide and followed him through adulthood. The message continued, if not right then and there, then later: GET HELP!
How to deal with mental illness, suicide and depression is always at the core of this narrative and Boddie and Lutfy gently pry us in different directions and moods not always those of angst and tension but at times with a little humor.
Boddie is up and down and all around the theatre, crisscrossing though isles and rows of seats keeping everyone alert and wondering where he will show up next. Audience members are on the stag and around the theatre. No one knows who they are until they are called on. On opening night some projected beautifully, others could barely be heard. That was my main complaint.
Accomplished actor that he is (Craig Noel winner as Actor of the Year in 2016) one might think that he is talking about his own family in his own living room designed by Abigail Caywood and lit by Caroline J. Andrew with sound design (record player and keyboards) by Steven Leffue.
"Every Brilliant Thing". Yesssssss!
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Sept. 16th
Organization: Cygnet Theatre
Production Type: One Person Show
Where: Theatre In Old Town, 4040Twiggs St. San Diego, CA 9210
Ticket Prices: $25.00-$60.00
Venue: Cygnet Theatre
Photo: Ken Jacques