By Don and Peggy Doman and Lavinia Hart.
Although we had written and sent out some details about the production “Every Brilliant Thing”, we really had no idea what it was about. I only knew there would be direct contact with the audience.
The sole performer was Eleise Moore. She talked and laughed and welcomed people as they came into the well lit production space. We were surprised to learn that she was the only actor for 80 uninterupted minutes. Eleise connected with music on vinal records, quips, laughter, and acceptance.
A Broadway review said “Every Brilliant Thing is a deeply affecting meditation on grief and mental illness told with humor and a clear-eyed optimism that makes the message that much more powerful.” I believe, I believe, I believe. But don’t get scared away . . . just come closer.
We walked into the black box theatre staging area at floor level. I wish we had taken seats earlier. Two rows of viewers on each of the four sides surrounded the actress. She dealt out cards to a number of audience members; each card had one or two numbers with accompanying phrases on it. When Eleise called out a number, who ever had that number was to call out the particular phrase written on it. The statement became part of the intimate tale as she reached out into everyone’s heart. Each phrase was a brilliant wonderful thing or experience.
Eleise told the story of her life with the help of the audience. Several times during the one act presentation, I connected with ideas both inside and outside the life story. I had flashes of a film I had watched the night before: “Martin and Lewis.” It was the story of how the unknown entertainers Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis connected with the audience, just a couple of years after the Second World War. The two entertainers won the audience over. The more outrageous they were, the more the people loved them. Laughter multiplies . . . especially in a group.
Every Billiant Thing was similar. There was no duo, no laugh-track, and no do-overs. There was only Eleise, but as she flew around the open stage and moved from viewer to viewer, the people let down their defenses and became more and more a part of the presentation . . . like a member of an excentric family.
Eleise connected with each person by talking with them, sharing with them, and the more she reached out to the audience the more they bought into the story and accepted their parts in it. One older man who played her father received a big loving hug at the end of the performance. It was totally sincere.
Every Brilliant Thing is just that – brilliant! Not only is the text and structure rare and beautiful, it is a one-man (or one-woman) show. This means our precious resource of regional and small theatres will have a production budget more suitable to their needs. The walls were black and the seats were no further away than twelve to twenty feet from the actor. Eleise carried a couple of books to represent a library. You felt like you were not in the audience but part of the action. Eleise even made people believe that she was holding a dog, Sherlock Bones, and not a coat.
DIRECTOR AARON LAMB and STAGE MANAGER JACKIE GRAY along with the rest of the crew did a marvelous job, surrounding Eleise with vintage recorded music that supported the story. Apart from that, Eliese carried the story on her own very capable shoulders. Although the production is 80 minutes long, I would argue the point that it was only 60 minutes . . . as everything moved so easily, quickly and lovingly along.
Every Brilliant Thing runs thru October 28th at the South Sound Community Minnaert Theatre of the Arts. There are even two weekday performances (Wed. Oct. 25th and Thur. Oct.26) – Tickets – https://harlequinproductions.org/show/every-brilliant-thing/