By Patrick Hurley
Tackling the topics of depression and suicide isn’t a dark and dreary subject for Every Brilliant Thing, playing now through Feb 12 at the Broad theater. Written by Duncan Macmillan, based on his own short story, the piece is a great reminder about how easily it can be to forget the small things in life.
The play is a brief (60 minutes), one-man show, in the round, with no set, and full house lights. This, coupled with audience participation gives the show a sense of community, that we are in a space that belongs just as much to us, the audience, as the performer. Johnny Donahoe is the performer, and he brings such an element of affability and gentleness to the role, that all of the audience members who were called upon to participate did so without reservation. Especially the cute blond guy who was asked to play the role of a college lecturer and earnestly read Goethe aloud to us.
Though not an autobiographical piece, which for some would have added a weightiness to the subject, it is a heartfelt and sweet call for more hope in the world, a sentiment that echoes at this particular political moment in history with resounding fortitude.
Mr. Donahoe narrates the story of a young boy who deals with the attempted suicide of his mother by making her a list of everything in the world he deems worth living for, “a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world.” By present day, this man has a list of hundreds of thousands of brilliant things. Even as he faces his own darkness and battles his own demons. It is a call to believe that it indeed gets better. A simple message in a play about complex human suffering.
Duncan Macmillan’s script is light and humorous and aims to connect with the people that are in the room, and Mr. Donohoe’s performance is filled with warmth and sincerity towards us. A combination that makes this piece a bit of performance art that points enough of itself at the audience, and allows us to relate by suggesting the world is more connected that we sometimes think, especially when we are in our darkest moments. This inclusion allows us to walk away having had a catharsis, and that’s really what we want, isn’t it? We want to walk out inspired, reflective and filled with hope. For most, that is exactly what you will get with this delightful, crowd-pleasing show.
Every Brillant Thing
By Duncan Macmillan
Directed by George Perrin
With Jonny Donahoe
At The Broad Stage
1310 11th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401