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Review: EVERYBODY at Antaeus Theatre Company

Review: EVERYBODY at Antaeus Theatre Company

The morality play seeks redemption through October 17

EVERYBODY, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' contemporary riff on a 15th-century morality play, is a creative and chaotic allegory about Christian salvation which is, in the end, an uneven production for the usually consistent Antaeus Theatre Company.

It begins with a welcome to the theater that segues into a lengthy and engaging monologue all grippingly performed by Cherish Monique Duke. Everybody-the character is named Everybody because he (in my case it was a he) represents, well, everybody-is tasked by God to account for humanity's horrors. In his quest to find a companion to die with him and then take the road to-literal-hell, Everybody finds that no one is willing to make that sacrifice with him.

Review: EVERYBODY at Antaeus Theatre Company
Harry Groener and Antonio Jaramillo

A finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize, the show offers a unique experience in that some of the actors, playing abstract ideas like Time, Understanding, and Love, don't know what character they are going to play until a lottery is performed on stage, meaning every night can be different with 120 different possible variations. Tasked with memorizing essentially the entire script, those actors begin seated in the audience and one by one are brought onto the stage, which is a fun surprise because you don't know who you're seated next to or when they will reveal themselves.

Director Jennifer Chang keeps things moving at a brisk pace for the show's 90-minute runtime (with no intermission), though there are times some of the actors struggle with the text, speaking too quickly, not giving time for the words to land. At a couple of junctures, Everybody-the character, not the entire acting ensemble-is speaking and other actors are mouthing his words, but it's never in concert, so it's distracting. That said, most of the actors are so game they ease through, Harry Groener, Dawn Didawick, Tony Amendola, and Antonio Jaramillo-who played Everybody the night I saw the show-being particular standouts. Jamarillo is downright mesmerizing at points. The stage is simple, just a brick-wall backdrop, dumpster, and park bench, and it's refreshing to see blind casting-the actors are all different ages, races, and body types, encompassing a huge swath of the humanity Everybody is struggling to redeem.

Review: EVERYBODY at Antaeus Theatre Company

The morality play has murky origins-Is it Dutch? Is it British? Buddhist? When did it first come into existence?-and reeks of existentialism (a wackier Beckett came to mind). And in the end, all the meditations-What is reality? What is life? Do we have worth? Who decides if we do?-end up seeming more like navel gazing than introspection or the plumbing of the soul the text aspires to. It may have played well in the Middle Ages to a religious crowd seemingly always in fear of persecution and hell, but to today's educated audiences the stakes are significantly lessened. Though Everybody's road is amusing at times, the slightness of the book undermines its intent so that it ends up being more surface than deep.

EVERYBODY is performed at Antaeus Theatre Company, 110 East Broadway, Glendale through October 17. Tickets can be purchased at®id=9&

Photos by Jenny Graham

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