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Every Brilliant Thing is brilliant at the Arden

Ralph Malachowski

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posted by Ralph Malachowski on Nov 27, 2018 10:30am | comments


The one-man show, Every Brilliant Thing has returned to the Arden Theatre Company for an engagement which will run until December 16.  Every Brilliant Thing is at the Bob and Selma Horan Studio Stage at the Hamilton Family Arts Center, a building just a few doors north from the Arden’s other two theatres. It is a beautiful, new venue.


Every Brilliant Thing, written by Duncan MacMillan with the actor/comedian Jonny Donahoe, who also created the role, originated at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014, which later transferred to New York, played there for several years Off-Broadway, and became an HBO special.  The authors claim it is an amalgam of stories of suicide attempts. Here we are told of the suicide attempts by the narrator’s mother, the first being when he was a small child, and how the narrator coped with those attempts by writing a list of “brilliant” things to prove to his mom that life was worth living.  The list started slowly with ice cream as number 1, to bed as number 11, all the way to the hundreds of thousands of items many years later when the narrator himself realizes that he, too, has inherited a tendency towards depression.  The list ends at one million near the play’s conclusion.  The Samaritans, a suicide prevention organization, is mentioned, as is their Media Guidelines for the Reporting of Suicide: 10 Things to Remember. For example, newspapers should never call a suicide successful, or make suicides front-page stories. 


During the 60 minutes of the play, we in the audience play parts allocated to us by the narrator. Many of us read from cards handed to us before the play begins. Others are commandeered to be counselors, father, or professor.  The audience member who plays the girlfriend for the performance has perhaps the most challenging ad hoc, ad lib, role to play.  Audiences usually dislike immersive theatre, but this is not the case with Every Brilliant Thing. No one asked to play a role refused. All were actually very good in their roles. Other requests for a food item, a pencil, or a book to use as a prop also kept us on our toes and alert rather than being observers of a drama. Every Brilliant Thing is Scott Greer’s 34th role at the Arden, as the program notes inform us. Greer delivers a tour-de-force performance as part humorist, narrator, sympathetic character, and group therapy leader, which the entire concept of Every Brilliant Thing resembles, since the audience of fewer than 100 surrounds the narrator and participates throughout the intense 60 minutes of the show. 


For a uniquely satisfying theatrical event which also serves to educate and inform with sympathy and humor, see Every Brilliant Thing.


Every Brilliant Thing is at the Arden’s Hamilton Family Arts Center, located at 62 N. Second Street, Philadelphia, until December 16.  For more information, call 215-922-1122 or visit .

NOTE: Opinions are those of the author, and not necessarily those of or of any organization or business that the author is assosciated with.

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