Posts Tagged ‘jonny donahoe’

Every Brilliant Thing
by Duncan Macmillan, With Jonny Donahoe
Directed by Donna Northcott
St. Louis Shakespeare
June 17, 2022

St. Louis Shakespeare’s latest dramatic presentation isn’t from the Bard, but it contains its fair share of comedy, drama, and tragedy. Every Brilliant Thing is a simply staged one-person show with interactive elements that is able to be tailored toward the leading performer, as well as each unique audience. Directed by Donna Northcott and starring local actor Isaiah Di Lorenzo, this is an engaging show that fits well into its space and tells its story with poignancy and hope.

This is a short show, running a little over an hour, and while the tone is whimsical at times, it deals with some heavy subjects including depression, self-harm, and suicide. There are resources included in the back of the program for anyone seeking help. In the play, Di Lorenzo is presented as a version of himself, telling his story of trying to list all the “brilliant” bright spots in life, first as a way to comfort his chronically depressed mother, and eventually for himself, as well. As he tells the story, he interacts directly with the audience, enlisting some viewers to participate in the action, playing his father, a teacher from school, his college sweetheart, and more, as well as reading the items on the list from cards as Di Lorenzo calls their number. It’s a thoroughly engaging show, given weight, drama, and heart by the personable Di Lorenzo, who has an excellent way of engaging the audience in the story. The audience engagement goes a little further than the story itself with this production, as well, as guests are encouraged to add their own “brilliant things” on sticky notes that they can attach to the walls in the lobby after the show. 

The staging is fairly simple, with no elaborate production values and a simple setup with chairs set out around the perimeter of the floor at the Chapel venue. For a set, there is only a crate in the middle to serve various purposes as Di Lorenzo weaves his compelling tale. There’s excellent support from sound designer John “JT” Taylor and properties designer Amanda Handle. 

Every Brilliant Thing seems to be an especially popular show these days, and I can see why, considering its interactive nature, compelling and poignant story, and the opportunity it provides to showcase a talented performer. At St. Louis Shakespeare and featuring the impressive Di Lorenzo, this show doesn’t disappoint. Even with its weighty subject matter, it’s a poignant and ultimately hopeful story which is especially well-told in this powerful production.

St. Louis Shakespeare is presenting Every Brilliant Thing at The Chapel until June 26, 2022

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Every Brilliant Thing
by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe
Directed by Tom Kopp
R-S Theatrics
November 15, 2018

R-S Theatrics’ latest production, Every Brilliant Thing, is an unusual play. In fact, it’s more of an extended monologue, or even a conversation, than a play. With more than a few interactive elements and opportunities for the audience to join in telling the story, it may be a challenge for introverts in the audience, although I’m an introvert and I enjoyed it a lot. Especially, it’s an excellent showcase for its central performer, Nancy Nigh.

Aside from the audience-participation elements, Every Brilliant Thing is a one-person show. It covers some topics that may be difficult for some audience members, so trigger warnings are included (and resources for information and help are offered in the program). It was originally performed in the UK by co-author Jonny Donahoe, who eventually performed the show in various places around the world, including New York. Here, the central character, referred to as “Narrator” in the program, is played by the excellent Nancy Nigh, who narrates the show as a version of herself, and as if the events in the play have happened to her personally. It’s a short show, only running a little over an hour, but a lot happens during that hour, as Nigh recounts the story of her life and how she deals with her mother’s depression and suicide attempts over the years. Her particular way of coping has been through a list of various things in life that are worth celebrating, which is where the play gets its title. It’s a story, but it’s all very conversational, as Nigh talks to the audience, distributes sections of the list for audience members to read when she calls out the numbers, and recruits a few audience members to participate in her story, playing her favorite childhood school teacher, her father, her love interest, and more. It’s a quirky, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, sometimes emotional and extremely personal show that has been adapted well to a St. Louis setting, although the Britishisms in the script (“Tea and Biscuits”, for instance) are still apparent.

The star of the show here is obviously Nigh, who is especially engaging as she navigates the story and all its emotional highs and lows. She deftly manages a strong rapport with the audience, as well, along with a strong stage presence and sense of character, even though she’s playing this “as herself”. This is a particularly challenging role considering the interactive aspects of it and how Nigh, while she handpicks her “co-stars” doesn’t know who is going to turn up each night and so there is an element of surprise for her as well as for the audience. Nigh rises to the challenge admirably. It’s an impressive performance.  Also impressive is the sound design, by Mark Kelley, and the coordination of the sounds and music that happen on cue as needed. Although the show’s production values are fairly minimal, since there isn’t really a set and there are no costume changes, the sound is what especially stands out, augmenting the show’s dramatic and interactive nature.

Every Brilliant Thing is a lot of things, kind of like the list that serves at its heart. It’s poignant, it’s incisive, it’s witty, and it’s anchored by a particularly strong central performance. Keeping in mind the sensitive subject matter, this is a show that makes a strong impression in a short time. It’s one to check out.

R-S Theatrics is presenting Every Brilliant Thing at the Kranzberg Arts Center until December 2, 2018


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