BWW Review: Portland Center Stage's EVERY BRILLIANT THING is a Brilliant Thing
Do you remember the book "14,000 Things to Be Happy About"? It's a big list of things to bring a smile to your face: rainbows, construction paper, something that actually happens when it's supposed to. I had just entered teenagehood and was going through a tough time when it was first published, and I read it cover to cover - all 14,000 things - underlining the ones I liked best so that later I could open it to any random page and find something that made me happy.
Having experienced the power of finding joy in the little things, I felt an immediate personal connection with Duncan Macmillan's EVERY BRILLIANT THING, a one-person play about a man who compiles a list of all of the things in this world worth living for in hopes of keeping his mom from committing suicide. Directed by Rose Riordan and starring Isaac Lamb, Portland Center Stage's production is both tear-jerking and playful. Most of all it's life-affirming. And it's now officially on my list of brilliant things.
EVERY BRILLIANT THING isn't your typical play. It's an immersive, participatory, part-improvisational piece that traces the protagonist's life from age 7, the first time his mom attempted suicide, through growing up, going to college, falling in love, and ultimately dealing with his own depression. As an audience member, you will likely be called on to do something, from reading out a list entry (mine was #654: Marlon Brando) to actually playing a character (with lines). As such, the show relies heavily on the audience's willingness to leave their inhibitions at the door and play along.
I can't think of a better person to convince an audience to do this than Isaac Lamb, who performs with a wide-open heart and extreme vulnerability. Your eyes will start to well with tears from the very first line and you'll enjoy several great belly laughs, as well as many sighs of pleasurable recognition with each new list entry (#1: ice cream, #318: burning things, #994: hairdressers who listen to what you want). You'll also be willing to do anything he asks - even if that means taking off your sock to make a sock puppet.
EVERY BRILLIANT THING is a funny, poignant play about depression and suicide. But it's also a reminder that the world around us is filled with a lot of really great things, and we'll all be better off if we take the time to notice them.
EVERY BRILLIANT THING runs through November 5. Details and tickets here.
Photo credit: Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv