Regional Reviews: Boston
Every Brilliant Thing
British playwright Duncan Macmillan's play, developed from a short story of his, addresses heavy topics like depression and suicide with honesty and sensitivity, though he manages it without being voyeuristic. There is one official character, played by Adrianne Krstansky, but audience members should be prepared to participate. Before the show starts, audience members are given slips of paper with numbered items written on them, and at certain points they are asked to call them out: ice cream, staying up past your bedtime, laughing so hard you shoot milk out of your nose. So begins the list of every (brilliant) thing that makes life worth living, the list that is the grounding theme for the entire show.
The house lights stay up throughout, so the audience can see and be seen clearly. Krstansky also selects a few to briefly take on characters for her to converse with directly (if you are chosen, don't panic; keep it simple and honest, and you'll be fine). Krstansky not only does an excellent job of keeping the audience engaged and relaxed, but she is also a moving performer. She has the task of both playing a character with grace and believability and managing a theatre full of people as if she's giving a TED Talk or leading a group therapy session. There is no protection of costumes or other actors or surrounding darkness, yet Krstansky is perfectly at ease, vulnerable but also trustworthy and calming as we follow her character from childhood, through college and marriage, and into adulthood. We also follow the list that began as her character's way of comforting her mother, who struggles with depression and attempted suicide. The list grows and evolves along with Krstansky's character as she moves through different life stages and experiences new challenges.
Krstansky has many area credits and previously appeared in SpeakEasy's Tribes, Body Awareness, and Snakebit. She received the Elliot Norton and IRNE Award for Best Actress in Huntington Theatre Company's Little Sheba and holds an MFA in Acting from the University of California, San Diego.
SpeakEasy has also partnered with the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to host talkbacks after each Thursday performance. The talks will include a doctor from McLean Hospital and one person from NAMI's In Our Own Voice program, whose panelists have experienced mental illness and are in recovery.
Even if you are unable to attend a talkback, the production encourages open conversation about the greatest pains in life, and it also helps us find humor and hope in the midst of such pains. (It will also almost assuredly have you jotting down items for your own list.) Humor, after all, is a necessary component of any healing process; if you are able to laugh, you are able to begin finding a way forward toward recovery and resilience, growth and empathy. And that is a truly brilliant thing.
Every Brilliant Thing runs through March 31, 2018, in the Roberts Studio Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street. Tickets start at $25, with discounts for students, seniors and those age twenty-five and under. For tickets and information, call 6179338600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com.