This is a reprint of my remarks about “Every Brilliant Thing” at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater presented in their Stiemke Studio during the 2018 – 2019 season. This originally appeared on my Facebook timeline on April 22, 2019!
Every once in a while the theater presents you with a gem that you weren’t quite expecting. Duncan Macmillan’s Every Brilliant Thing turned out to be that surprise this season. Not originally on my subscription list, I attended under the auspices of the Rep’s Social Media Club! (Thank your SMC)
Although this is technically a one actor play, with the brilliant Scott Greer in the lead role, this play supports the proposition that it takes a village to perform a play! Sounds silly? Well the stage is a Persian rug dead center with the resulting theater in the round allowing the audience to partake…as either the Vet or Dad or the school counselor or the fiancé/wife. Unscripted parts prompted by Mr. Greer. And then there’s the call and response throughout recounting the list of Every Brilliant Thing. Violations all of the fourth wall that brings the serious nature of the play’s subject matter down a notch and insures everyone present is fulling engaged every moment. So if you attend and Mr. Greer offers you a card to read before the show starts…take it! You will not regret it.
Some of the preview information that I had read suggested that there were two characters here despite there being only the one acting role. And at first I thought the second character was the audience…but that’s just not right at all.
The storyline involves the lead character’s dance through life…and it’s funny and sad and a bit depressing at different turns and moments. And keep that word depressing in the back of your mind.
The first remembrances relate to his childhood and the depression suffered by his mother and her initial (and unsuccessful) attempt to kill herself. And his ‘life saving’ measure of inventing a list of every brilliant thing to share with his mother. And as his life grows…the list grows…and goes from supporting his efforts to support his mother…to supporting himself.
So that second character? That depends. At first I thought it was his mother. She is prominent and her struggles can weigh heavy on the plot. But I think it shifts to the list of Every Brilliant Thing as it rapidly takes on a life of its own and approaches a million things. But as the lead enters full on adulthood we realize it is depression. Unseen but not unspoken and certainly not unfelt.
There are a lot of joyous events recounted…some decidedly sad ones…and discussions of family dynamics and the little things that we learn about one another…and the tells that help guide our responses…even with those we love.
And Kudos to the Stiemke Theater itself for transforming from a traditional proscenium type to a three sided auditorium with the jewel box stage in the fourth corner to a theater in the round this season!!!
There are after play discussions about mental health topics for those who have the time or inclination to attend…participation is not required.
This runs through May 5th…so there is still time to catch it and it will be worth your while.