Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Every Brilliant Thing
It's the story of a boy who grows up wondering if his mother is one day, finally, going to be successful in her occasional attempts at taking her own life. So, beginning at age eight, the narrator is generating this ever-growing list of reasons for her to stay alive. The list begins with things like "ice cream" and "staying up past your bedtime and being allowed to watch TV," and gradually becomes more complex. (The audience reads some of these items off of cards handed out before the show.) But, horrifically, his mom never reads the list.
Every Brilliant Thing was written by Duncan Macmillan, and originally performed (and co-written) by Johnny Donahoe beginning at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and later, in 2014, off-Broadway. It reaffirms the idea that any good "fringe" show must be simple and visceral, but must also open a door to a very deep psychological root cellar. The subject matter is so intense, even while the handling of it so very lighter-than-air, that it unbundles into something that feels very much like a full-length play.
Four audience members are gently walked through important moments in the boy's life, playing a family member, a counselor, a teacher and a girlfriend. And they too came off looking quite good, in this theater-in-the-round. Ultimately, it was the opposite of the Actor's Nightmare, though while it's going on, that kind of tension is very definitely part of the drama. And gradually, it all sweeps us away. The narrator's list becomes a spiritual inventory for all of us, and life becomes unexpectedly precious all over again.
Every Brilliant Thing runs through June 26, 2022, at the Chapel on Alexander, 6238 Alexander Drive, immediately south of Wydown Blvd. off Skinke, St. Louis MO. Face masks are required, and on opening night were available at the ticket desk. For more tickets and information please visit www.stlshakespeare.org.