Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training
William S. Oser | Season Schedule (updated)

Also see Bill's review of At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen

Macaria Martinez, Erin O'Connor, Evan Stevens,
Joe Ayers, Christian Douglass, Dreaa Baudy

Photo by Frank Atura, Asolo Conservatory
If there is a more audacious idea than to attempt to explain death, in modern terms but with an existential overlay, then I haven't heard it. That is what Branden Jacobs-Jenkins attempts in his play Everybody. I see shadows of No Exit and Waiting for Godot, though if anyone can let me know what Beckett is trying to illuminate, I am ready. Everybody is now being presented by the second year students of The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training. The play had an Off-Broadway production at The Signature Theatre Company in 2017. The critics were not particularly kind, yet it was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Everybody is based on Everyman, one of oldest plays in existence, as explained to the audience in a framing device which for me works better to end the modern play than at the beginning where it gets more than a bit didactic. It does turn out to be at least partially necessary because Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins has incorporated quite a number of conceits which the audience needs to have explained before launching into the meat of the play.

Five actors are part of a group of Somebodies, with one chosen each night to play Everybody, who will be launched toward his or her death in the play. The others regroup to play figures around his or her life, so that requires some flexibility depending on who is the chosen one. There are some scenes which incorporate previously recorded script, I think in the voice of whoever has been chosen to play Everybody in that evening's performance. The remaining actors from the Somebodies group have to lip synch to these speeches. All of this makes Everybody a perfect play for acting students stretching their technical muscles.

At the performance I attended, Joe Ayers was chosen Everybody. Mr. Ayers gave what I reacted to as superb performance of a role where the character is facing his own imminent death, emotions flying everywhere, unable to find his own self and over- reacting to many minor slights from those around him.

The rest of the Somebodies are Erin O'Connor, Christian Douglass, Evan Stevens, and Dreaa Baudy. They played many different parts in Everybody's dream sequences, such as Ms. O'Connor as best friend, Mr. Stevens as second best friend, and Ms. Baudy as fortune/wealth. The last vignette is Love, played by Sydney Story.

Macaria Martinez played the imperious usher who acts as our tour guide throughout the 80-minute play. She played the part well, but I found the opening sequence overblown. Jerald Wheat was Death, coming in and out of the story throughout as a commanding presence.

Direction is credited to Greg Leaming in the program, but confusion steps in with an insert that states "production staged for The Cook Theatre by Jonathan Epstein." Mr. Leaming is the long-time head of The Asolo Conservatory and will be stepping down Spring 2022. Mr. Epstein is one of the professors, and I believe his main focus is Shakespeare. Either way, the performances are exciting and the staging quite theatrical.

I found the play extremely interesting, as the author posits some imaginative ideas on this tough subject. I don't think Everybody fully reveals itself without at least two viewings, and I do plan to see it again. Bravo to the very talented second year class of FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training.

Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training's Everybody runs through November 21, 2021, FSU Center, Cook Theater, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. For tickets and information, please visit or call 941-351-8000.

Cast: Usher/God/Understanding: Macaria Martinez
Death: Jerald Wheat
Somebodies: Erin O'Connor, Joe Ayers, Christian Douglass, Evan Stevens, Dreaa Baudy
Girl/Time: Imani Williams
Love: Sydney Story
Evil: Bryan Lewis