Critique of 'Every Brilliant Thing'
The one-person show breaks with traditional expectations to deliver a unique, thoughtful play. In a first, the 'Hudson Household Editorial' offers a theater critique.
Every Brilliant Thing, written by David Macmillan with Johnny Donahoe, and produced by David Widder-Varhegyi, is successful in shattering the conventional understanding of what theater is or can be as the audience is invited to participate throughout the hour and a half long roller coaster of high-highs and low-lows. The interactive nature of the play means that each day is different depending on those in attendance. The show debuted at Clientele Art Studio in Wheeling, West Virginia, on Friday, June 2, Saturday, June 3, and Sunday, June 4.
The story begins with an introduction to our main character, a seven-year-old child. He is told his mother has been hospitalized after attempting to take her own life, causing him to write a list of everything brilliant in the world–a list of things he sees as worth living for. We follow the protagonist through the trials and tribulations of their life as the list grows longer. Numbers from the list are shouted out and members of the audience read the corresponding ‘brilliant thing,’ assigned to them before the start of the play. Others are chosen on the spot to improvise key roles like a vet, a college professor, a school psychiatrist, or the protagonist's father.
Widder-Varhegyi, as the sole performer in the show, seamlessly transitions from joy to sorrow through the tone and inflection of his speech, his facial expressions, and his posture or gait. Widder-Varhegyi adapts quickly to the at times complex, at times brief, always unforeseen, responses given by the unwitting participants. He is forthright in saying when he has forgotten a line or is taken off-guard–something that only happens twice or thrice during the three performances.
The audience is silent as themes of depression and death are discussed, save for a few sniffles, as goosebumps and chills take hold. There are as many moments to laugh as there are to cry as these tense moments are cut with humor. The audience roars with laughter and applause during these often unexpected jokes. The attentiveness of the crowds can be attributable to each person having a part to play when called upon, and due to Widder-Varhegyi’s captivating performance.
The stage and set design are minimalistic, assisting in the playwright’s, and Widder-Varhedyi’s, desire to have the audience be a part of the show–not just viewers of it. Chairs, books, and a sticky-note covered garage door make up the bulk of the props. The space of the venue is used to convey the changing scenes rather than backdrops. Music and sound play pivotal roles in establishing mood and setting the scene, in spite of sporadic technical issues with the microphone and speaker.
In all, Every Brilliant Thing, written by David Macmillan with Johnny Donahoe, produced and performed by David Widder-Varhegyi, succeeds in its goal to present the audience with a unique style of theater by encouraging the audience to be participants rather than observers. This is a masterclass in art and in storytelling.
The Hudson Household Editorial, in its debut theater review, awards David Widder-Varhegyi’s production and performance of Every Brilliant Thing, 4.5 out of 5 ‘households.’ The bar has been set high for other theater productions planning to debut in the City of Wheeling
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