Every Brilliant Thing Review – Perfect Post-Pandemic Fare

Daniel K. Isaac as the Narrator in EVERY BRILLIANT THING- Photo by Isaak Berliner
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Written by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, EVERY BRILLIANT THING stars Daniel K. Isaac in the solo journey through the milestones in his life that reminds us to pay attention to life’s smallest joys – and to the people who are truly important in our lives. Originally a 2006 short story by English playwright Duncan Macmillan, EVERY BRILLIANT THING subsequently proved to be a dynamic theater production co-authored with Jonny Donahoe and first presented in London in 2012. The interactive monolog found its way to New York City in 2014/2015, where it starred co-playwright Donahoe and was a Critics’ Pick. The powerful solo play has toured the world and was adapted for HBO in 2021. In 2023, EVERY BRILLIANT THING finds its way to the Geffen Theatre directed by Colm Summers and starring Daniel K. Isaac.

Daniel K. Isaac – Photo by Isaak Berliner

When authors Macmillan and Donahoe were interviewed for an HBO documentary in 2021, Macmillan described the play as “a conversation with the light on…let’s not separate us from the audience; let’s do everything together.” Donahoe added that “because the theater is ‘in the round,` you have this moving set around you of people reacting, engaging, laughing, and crying…it’s where the form meets the content of the piece.”

Daniel K. Isaac – Photo by Isaak Berliner

When asked about the recurring theme of depression and suicide, Macmillan opined that “it’s a scary, dark subject that we didn’t want to sentimentalize, but we also wanted to be really honest and helpful…it had to be funny, and it also needed to be open and generous and inclusive of an audience and not scare people off. Donahoe noted that “depression is something that affects all of us, whether directly or indirectly, and the only way to deal with it is to be open about it.”

Daniel K. Isaac – Photo by Isaak Berliner

So what is all the fuss about? EVERY BRILLIANT THING starts off as a coming-of-age story told by a seven-year-old boy raised by his stable but stoic father and a mother on a perennial rollercoaster of emotions – and how this youngster coped with the electric and unpredictable atmosphere around him, the specter of suicide often in the air. This is a story about the human need for communication – and the huge bonuses offered to each of us if we will only focus on the beauty and meaningful moments we are surrounded with, rather than on the low points – and even occasional tragedies – that are part of everyone’s journey through life. It is also a story of hope and the human need to look for the silver lining in the black clouds hanging overhead. Using music as a stepping stone to feelings, the narrator even learns how to express his feelings without words.

Daniel K. Isaac – Photo by Isaak Berliner

Director Summers helms the production with compassion – but also keeps things moving and often very amusing indeed. Isaac does a brilliant job of bringing this monolog to life with the aid of audience members – some of whom step right up and others who look very much like deer in the headlights – again adding to the gentle humor in the piece. Happily, Isaac has some latitude with specific lines, given the spontaneity and unexpected responses he must often deal with. At the same time, he must remain faithful to the script. Special kudos to scenic designer Sibyl Wickersheimer, whose beautifully woven and intricately patterned textiles keep Benedict Conran’s lighting subtle but still direct. EVERY BRILLIANT THING is a theatrical event which should not be missed.

Daniel K. Isaac – Photo by Isaak Berliner

EVERY BRILLIANT THING runs through October 15, 2023, with performances at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays through Fridays, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater is located at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024. Tickets range from $30 to $129. For information and reservations, call 310-208-2028 or go online.


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