Theater Review: EVERY BRILLIANT THING (Center Repertory Company at The Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek)

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by Chuck Louden on January 19, 2024

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


Now playing at Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek through Jan. 28 is the fantastic one-man show Every Brilliant Thing. Written by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahue, this show combines humor and pathos with audience participation for a night of riveting theater.

Originating in London and made into an HBO documentary film, it’s a story of one man’s lifelong journey. The unnamed author/narrator is on a search for universal sources of joy. This is to help him cope with growing up in a household with a clinically depressed mother suffering with suicidal ideation. Our narrator spends his life making lists of things that bring him happiness. As early as age seven, he starts out listing ice cream, the color yellow, and other simple pleasures in life. Unlike David Letterman’s Top Ten List though, his list continues to grow throughout his life. Past college and into young adulthood the list extends into countless pages with thousands of things that bring him joy.

The audience gets to participate in this journey by being given props with list items or called out to play small roles as people who influenced our narrator’s life. It’s an intense 70 minutes and an emotional roller coaster as the list grows and the emotional angst along with it. Bay Area Theater veteran William Thomas Hodgson pulls it off with his boyish good looks and charm. His energetic performance and interaction with the audience feels like we’re privy to an intimate confessional using humor and optimism while subtly concealing his demons and personal pain.

With a minimal set, director Jeffrey Lo trusts his actor’s talents, body language and gestures to convey both the humor and pain and underlying message of hope that Every Brilliant Thing offers. Post-COVID shutdown we are all aware of living in a world of uncertainty, anxiety and underlying depression. Center Repertory Company‘s production gives the audience the chance to experience this but leave with hope and an opportunity for all of us to make our own lists about what brings us joy.

photos by Alessandra Mello

Every Brilliant Thing
Center Repertory Company
Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Dr, in Walnut Creek
Tues-Fri at 7:30; Sat at 2:30 & 7:30; Sun at 2:30 & 7
ends on January 28, 2024
for tickets ($35-$40), call 925.943.7469 Wed-Sun, 12-6pm, or visit Lesher Arts

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