Every Brilliant Thing

Theater, Drama
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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Every Brilliant Thing. Barrow Street Theatre (Off Broadway). By Duncan Macmillan. Directed by George Perrin. With Jonny Donahoe. Running time: 1hr. No intermission.

Every Brilliant Thing: In brief

In Duncan Macmillan's solo dark comedy, performed and cowritten by Jonny Donahoe, a young man devises a list of his favorite things to ease his mother's depression. George Perrin, who directed the show's acclaimed U.K. runs, also helms the U.S. premiere.

Every Brilliant Thing: Theater review by Adam Feldman

Just in time for winter, with its complement of affective disorders, comes Duncan Macmillan’s Every Brilliant Thing, a theatrical candy cane: very sweet but tempered by sharpness and striped with bright nostalgia. The affable, gregarious British comedian Jonny Donahoe is our narrator, who begins by telling of a childhood disturbed by his mum’s suicidal depression. We learn nothing else about the woman—sadness seems to have erased her—but the experience inspires her son to try to cheer her, à la “My Favorite Things,” with a growing list of the world’s virtues. (First entry: “ice cream.”) He resumes this exercise in college (No. 1655: “Christopher Walken’s hair”), with limited success in curtailing his own darker tendencies.

Canes made of candy, it turns out, provide only so much support. But Macmillan’s slim, hour-long show works a gentle magic, thanks to Donahoe’s skill as a host. Staged in the round by George Perrin, Every Brilliant Thing is built on audience participation, and it is this sense of community—more than the largely solitary act of list-making—that embodies its generous spirit. Even the audience gets a little chance to shine.—Theater review by Adam Feldman

THE BOTTOM LINE Donahoe brings a warm glow to a sometimes somber tale.

Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam

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