Regional Reviews: Las Vegas
Every Brilliant Thing
Also see Mary's review of The Pirates of Penzance
Written by Duncan Macmillan, with an additional writing credit to Johnny Donahoe (the British comedian who starred in the show's earliest productions), Every Brilliant Thing examines the impact of parental depression and suicide on a 7-year-old boy and the adult he becomes. Baffled by his mother's first suicide attempt, the boy (named Marcus here) decides she simply needs to be reminded of what makes life worth living. He delivers her a list, starting with #1: Ice cream! We know that she reads the list, but neither we nor Marcus ever learn how she feels about it.
As Marcus grows up, his mother makes additional attempts. Each time, he dusts off the list and adds to it, and the new additions reflect whatever delights him at each stage of maturity. In between these episodes, the list is then tucked away and forgotten as life moves on. When midlife brings Marcus his own personal darkness, it is his turn to need help.
Every Brilliant Thing treats a somber subject in a way that is both moving and funny. The play's ups and downs parallel the alternating moments of darkness and joy that punctuate a life. With minimal set and props, the play depends entirely on the actor's skills. Weiss is excellent. His timing is impeccable, and he convincingly transitions from child to teenager to college student to adult.
While Weiss is the only scripted actor in the piece, members of the audience play significant roles as well, as Weiss calls on them from time to time to perform with him in one-on-one scenes. These interactions are remarkably effective. In each case, Weiss initiates the dialogue and gives the occasional instruction, but the scenes are largely improvised, since he cannot anticipate exactly how each chosen spectator will respond in the extended exchange. Weiss is warm, likeable, and quick-witted, with a strong background in improvisational theatre. As a result, each of these moments is poignant and fun, advancing the story rather than digressing or going for cheap laughs.
Because the audience is seated on all four sides of the floor-level stage, with the front rows at stage level, Weiss can approach almost anyone with ease. The action takes place on the stage, in the aisles and even in the seats. Walsh's direction ensures that no matter where you sit, you will feel engaged.
If you are not a fan of solo shows and/or audience interaction, Every Brilliant Thing is the best argument for changing your mind.
Every Brilliant Thing, through September 30, 2018 (Thursday-Saturday at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm) at the Art Square Theatre, 1025 S. 1st St., #110, Las Vegas NV. For tickets ($25 general admission, $20 students, seniors, and public servants) and further information, go to www.cockroachtheatre.com.