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BWW Review: EVERY BRILLIANT THING at Fort Wayne Civic Theatre

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Playing for one more weekend at the Fort Wayne Civic

BWW Review: EVERY BRILLIANT THING at Fort Wayne Civic Theatre

You have just one more weekend to catch this short run of EVERY BRILLIANT THING, a one-man play by Duncan MacMillan and Jonny Donahoe, at the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre. The Civic's fare is usually large-ensemble musicals, so it was a rare treat to see a play- and one with such a small cast- take the stage for the opening of their 2021-2022 season.

EVERY BRILLIANT THING sees the Narrator (played by the ever-talented Todd Frymier, a beloved veteran of the Fort Wayne theatre scene for the last 35 years) share his story about growing up with a mother suffering from depression, and how that impacted his childhood and subsequent adulthood. The title of the play comes from a list that the Narrator begins when he's seven, after his mother's first suicide attempt: a list of every brilliant thing he can think of, so he can give the list to his mother in order to help her see what there is to stay alive for.

The play's not as grim as all that might sound- the levity of the subject matter is deftly balanced by moments of comedy throughout- but do be aware that this play will make you think, and it will make you feel. It's very much a deep dive that comes just in time for September, which is National Suicide Prevention month.

The show is a monologue that feels, at times, more like a dialogue for a number of reasons. Firstly, Frymier, as the Narrator, offers thought-provoking insight into the myriad of ways mental health can affect our families, friends, and ourselves. His warmth and openness before the show even begins helps set the tone that this theatre, for the next hour or so, will be a safe space to consider for ourselves those heavier ideas as we watch and listen. At times, the play almost feels like a TED Talk, but he also makes it clear that this isn't necessarily a universal experience: the Narrator is sharing one story of depression, a story that may or may not resonate, but one that is important to hear nevertheless.

The other reason why the show feels more like a dialogue is more literal: the Narrator invites audience participation throughout. If you choose on stage seats (which I highly recommend), you may find yourself playing the part of one of the key figures in the Narrator's memories. Don't worry- it doesn't require any real work (or acting skills) on your part, just your willingness to play along with Frymier's direction. These moments made the audience's experience feel intimate and immersive in a way that I wasn't expecting, based on the Arts United Center's large size. If the idea of impromptu participation makes you sweat, simply buy your tickets for the traditional seats instead.

In the show notes, director Brad Beauchamp muses that EVERY BRILLIANT THING "reminds us not only of the benefits of coming together to see that we may all be struggling with challenges, with days where just getting out of bed feels like a monumental task, that making lists can be grounding and calming and comforting, but also suggests that we may have done some damage to our humanity by increasingly creating distance."

The play certainly prompted conversation among my companions after the show, which is one of the Civic's goals with this production- to get people in the community about key issues that affect everyone. And in today's world, where mental health awareness is more important than ever, I think this play's a bold and well-chosen addition to the season. Stick it on the list- brilliant thing number 9,830,012: immersive plays that make you THINK.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255). The Crisis Text Line is also available by texting IN to 741741.

EVERY BRILLIANT THING is directed by Brad Beauchamp, with lighting and technical design by Corey Lee, costume design by Angela Sahli, scenic design by Adam Fletcher, and stage management by Shawna Roberts.

The show runs through September 19 at the Arts United Center on Main Street in downtown Fort Wayne. For more information about the show, visit the Civic website. You can purchase tickets by calling the box office at 260-424-5220 or you can buy them online. For ONSTAGE seating, click here, and for traditional seating, click here. Socially distanced seating is available in the last six rows of the auditorium. Masks are recommended but not required.


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