5 out of 5 stars
During a time of year when many of us experience mental health crises due to finals, family and future fears, Theatreworks’ “Every Brilliant Thing” at the Ent Center is the show students need about finding joy in difficult circumstances.
Written by Duncan MacMillan and directed by Marisa Hébert, the story follows the life of a young girl who decides to begin a list of every brilliant thing worth living for after her mother attempts suicide. As she grows up and begins her adult life, she continues to add to the list and eventually it lifts her up during her own struggle with depression.
The script is written for one actor, the narrator, played excellently by Rebecca Myers. Myers held me in rapt attention for the entire 70 minutes that she took the stage, carrying her energy at the same level of sincerity and enthusiasm throughout.
Her voice rang throughout the Dusty Loo Theater no matter where she was standing, and she handled the frequent audience interactions throughout the show with grace and good humor, cultivating an actor-audience relationship of mutual respect and excitement.
On occasion, the audience member she spoke with gave a different answer than she needed, but her confidence in her lines and character gave her the ability to direct the audience member to the progression she needed.
Myers seamlessly transitioned through the innocence of a child, the anger of a teenager, the uncertainty of a college student in love and the eventual struggle of adulthood — using a flannel as a visual cue to demonstrate change.
Her enjoyment of the role was evident and every emotional arrow hit its mark, from a moment of aching pain to the following use of an item from the brilliant things list to buoy herself back to happiness.
The set, made to look like an old attic filled with records and books, was elaborate and realistic without taking away from Myers’ words. Even though it was clear what the room was meant to be, the attic morphed into other imaginary spaces to represent different moments of the narrator’s life through the use of props and iterations of the list.
The lighting underscored the emotions the narrator experienced over the course of the show by gradually fading to a bluer shade during sadder moments and brightening to a lighter yellow as the brilliant things list went on.
Soul, jazz and pop songs were incorporated into the script at different moments to illustrate a turning point in the narrator’s life. Each song was integrated well into the story, even though the sound sometimes overpowered the vocals of the narrator.
The show discussed the issues of depression and suicide in a realistic way without being overly heavy-handed, balancing the more difficult and painful moments of the narrator’s journey with her stubborn fight to love the things around her, from ice cream to dreams of flying.
It exemplified the fact that life, while always made harder by the battle with mental illness, will always be full of joyful moments, and it was exactly the reminder I needed that night. I left wiping away tears and smiling at the same time.
“Every Brilliant Thing” is playing at the Ent Center through Dec. 19. Tickets are available online, and students can receive free admission by contacting the box office at 719-255-8181 or [email protected].