Every Brilliant Thing at Arden Theatre Company reminds us to enjoy the little things

-Brenda Hillegas
photo by Ashley Smith of Wide Eyed Studios

A solo trip to the theatre (I do it often).

The mochi ring donut I always get before a show at the Arden.

The bus home lining up perfectly with a show’s runtime, so I don’t have long to wait.

If I were to add to Every Brilliant Thing‘s list of reasons why life is worth living, that’s what I’d say. And there are no wrong answers, of course, because according to the show’s narrator- he’s trying to hit a million.

Every Brilliant Thing, by English playwright Duncan Miller, along with comedian Jonny Donahoe who originated the role as the narrator, is a one-person show that discusses suicide and mental illness. Though tough topics to talk about openly, the narrator encourages audiences to get comfortable by sharing his personal story, finding silver linings and warmth when days are dark. This marks the third time Every Brilliant Thing has been performed at the Arden, with Scott Greer in the intense (and often funny) role as a man who recounts his life from just a young boy to adulthood. From growing up with a suicidal mother, finding love, coping with loss, and sharing what makes life worth living- this is a performance that shouldn’t be missed. The narrator tells his story by going through a long list of the small things that really do mean something big- conversation, ice cream, diners at 3am…and hundreds more- in hopes that his mother will also see the joy in life.

The show is scripted but does rely on the audience to join in on the dialogue. Don’t let this discourage you- the show really only works if you’re there! I absolutely loved the “yes and” aspect of Every Brilliant Thing because I love seeing improv shows (like the good ones in New York City grocery store basements where big acts got their start…that would definitely be on my list). Greer surveys the audience and just seems to know who would be the best fit for quick roles as his father, his girlfriend, a therapist, a veterinarian, and more. Everyone was happy to break away from their comfort zone and play along. Most audience numbers will be handed a card by Greer before the play starts too. When he calls out a number, you just say what’s on the card. Get one! Play along! Shout out the item on your list as if it’s the best thing on that list.

You’ll walk away relating to at least one thing he said (spending money during my international trips really does just feel like I’m playing a game of Monopoly with pretend cash) and you’ll be encouraged to add to the list by writing down your brilliant things to stick to the walls on the way out.

Every Brilliant Thing is a unique, shared experience that runs through December 11th at Arden Theatre. Tickets are available at ardentheatre.org

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