BWW Feature: EVERY BRILLIANT THING at Cockroach Theater

BWW Feature: EVERY BRILLIANT THING at Cockroach Theater
Photo by Richard Brusky

The topics of depression and suicide are brought to the stage with compassion, humor, introspection, and sensitivity in Every Brilliant Thing. Visiting artist Jane C. Walsh directs lead Marcus Weiss in its first production of the 2018-19 season with performances through Sept. 30.

The narrative begins with the lead character discussing his chronically depressed mother and her first suicide attempt when he was 7. As a child, he wants to make things better so he begins writing a list of all the reasons a person should want to live with "ice cream" as one of the top joys in life.

However, this is not one man talking to a group of people. The audience interacts throughout the show including several audience members taking on impromptu roles.

Walsh discovered the play through the Portland Center Stage Company. After researching its impact, she knew "Marcus Weiss needs to do this piece. The story needs to be told."

Fitting the company's goal of forward-thinking theater, Walsh was also offered the opportunity to direct. As her first time working with Cockroach Theatre, "this is a very generous gift," she explained. "I am always interested in works that open a conversation. Depression, suicide, and mental health issues have always been something that people will walk big circles around."

Duncan MacMillan, the playwright of Every Brilliant Thing, explained during an interview how he gave it deep thought. He spoke about the need to discuss this topic in a socially responsible way. MacMillan was able to create a work with eloquence in a hilarious way that still addresses concerns.

The structure of the piece also engages the audiences with elements of improv. "The audience feels the presence and is very much part of the performance. While the story is scripted, every show is different. The audience becomes invested in a very unique way, not only in the piece but also hopefully in the subject matter," Weiss said.

Ultimately, the play showcases both discovering and continuing to rediscover the value of living from the small to the very complicated things in life. The character grows to find community, love, acceptance, self-acceptance, and forgiveness.

Staged in-the-round, Every Brilliant Thing will be presented through Sept. 30 at the Cockroach Theatre located in Art Square Theatre, 1025 S. First. St. For tickets and more information, visit

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From This Author Debbie Hall

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