Joyful. Life affirming. … Brilliant.
These are not words one would normally associate with a one-man play centered around depression and suicide. But “Every Brilliant Thing” is anything but normal.
I attended the play on Saturday, which was its opening night, at Boise Contemporary Theater. I will admit that while I believed wholeheartedly that the topic was a commendable one to take on — I have been volunteering at the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline for more than two years now — I was looking forward to going with great trepidation.
And it was such a surprise that it was such a delight that I almost hate to say it because I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you.
But I promise, that will be the only spoiler from me because I so hope you will go to this play and experience the delight of it all for yourself.
It is a one-man play written by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe, and directed by Julie Ritchey and featuring actor Christian Libonati, who truly embodies the role of the main character. Yes, I said “main character,” because, although this is a one-man play, other characters are portrayed throughout the play’s 90 minutes by audience members peppered throughout the theater. The night I was there, those amateurs took their roles seriously and created such honesty with their earnestness.
It’s also a play in the round, sort of. By that I mean, the audience is on all sides, but it is not a perfect circle of people. Another difference from most plays: the house lights stay on — and if you really “have to go,” you may, as long as you return discreetly.
The gist of the story is this: a 6-year-old little boy finds out his mom attempted suicide, so he begins writing a list of “every brilliant thing” to convince her that life is worth living. That is the taking off point of the story and I won’t tell you what happens next, but I will say that the list is the thread that binds this story, beginning to end.
That list takes on a life of its own and for me, it outlived the length of the play — I’ve been compiling my own list ever since I walked out the double doors into the night.
1. That sound shoes make walking down an empty hallway. 2. The smell of garlic sizzling in butter. 3. That indescribable color of blue in the sky while sitting on a mountaintop. 4. Hearing someone laugh and not knowing why. 5. The cool side of my pillow.
I walked out of the show that night with tears in my eyes, both of joy and heartbreak.
How often does that happen?
And that’s why I say that “Every Brilliant Thing” is a must-see play.
It simply is — brilliant.
Jeanne Huff is the community engagement editor for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at 208-465-8106 and follow her on Twitter @goodnewsgirl.