“Every Brilliant Thing,” an award-winning interactive play about a child who responds to his mother’s mental illness by creating a list of things “worth living for,” is making its Pittsburgh premiere.
Written by British playwright Duncan Macmillan with comedian Jonny Donahoe, “Every Brilliant Thing” runs May 25-June 11 at the University of Pittsburgh’s Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre.
The show is a comedy about depression, Kinetic Theatre Company’s Producing Artistic Director Andrew Paul said. Relying on just one actor and audience involvement, “‘Every Brilliant Thing’ uses humor and creates an environment of openness that allows the audience to feel like they are full participants in the story.”
Marcus Jacob Weiss, a Las Vegas-based Jewish actor, stars in the production.
“The value of this show, in particular, is that it changes lives in a very concrete way,” Weiss said. “It moves people to think, feel and do, and perhaps be something different.”
Weiss said it is difficult to explain not only the show’s value but how it is “such a beautiful piece of work.”
The audience arrives in the theater “having no expectations and leaves completely joyful,” Weiss said. “You almost might be sad that the show is over, but you’re thrilled that your life is beginning after.”
Part of the play’s power is that it “addresses the issue of mental health from the inside out,” Weiss said. “It goes really deep into the experience of it but is extremely hopeful — and beyond hope, I truly believe that it gives people something they can do to change not just their mental health but the mental health of others around them.”
The National Institutes of Health estimates that 26% of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a “diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.”
Globally, 5% of adults experience depression, according to the World Health Organization.
While society has become increasingly aware of mental health disorders in recent years, more recognition and action is necessary, Paul said.
“Every Brilliant Thing” does an excellent job of empowering an audience, Weiss said: “This show shows us and gently guides us as to what life can be like and arguably should be like.”
Paul noted the play does address several “heavy and mature themes” but does so in a way that is accessible to people of all ages.
“I’ve sat through it several times and taken my kids to it,” he said. “I feel it has a theatrical magic. It’s not a depressing play — it’s actually quite uplifting.”
“Every Brilliant Thing” is a reminder that “not only is life worth living but there’s things you can do to make it joyful.”
For Paul, there’s a similar takeaway.
“Our hope is that the audience emerges from it with not only a better understanding of mental health issues but also feels more positively about the world we’re living in,” he said. “With art that’s always a goal, but I think this piece really does achieve it.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.