‘Every Brilliant Thing’, written by Duncan MacMillan and Jonny Donahoe tells the story of a man who starts a list of everything brilliant about the world as a gift for his mother who first attempts suicide when he is seven years old. The list continues through his college years, his marriage, and his life as an adult, helping him battle his own bouts with depression. A single actor with help of the audience tells the play.
The show has minimal cast and crew, being directed by Alexander Florez, with Sierra Caban serving as Stage Manager and James Phillips playing the show’s Narrator. Florez directed short plays and hosted improv comedy shows at Mount Saint Mary College and is currently with Serious Comedy Theatre in Beacon, Caban is a junior English major seeking dual certification in Childhood/Special Education with a Theatre and Psychology minor at Mount Saint Mary College. Her previous credits include: Oh, the Humanity and The Wolves as a member of the cast, Tomfoolery as assistant stage manager, and Loves Labours Lost. Phillips is an Associate Professor of Theatre at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh. He is a founding member of Capitol City Improv and Teatre de la Fleur commedia troupe. Recent productions include: The Wolves, Loves Labours Lost, Tomfoolery, Oh, the Humanity, and the Laramie Project.
‘Every Brilliant Thing’ was picked by Phillips, who had discovered it through a showing of an Off-Broadway production on HBO. Knowing he would need someone to direct, he then reached out to Florez, who is appreciative of the opportunity to direct once more since graduating in 2015.
“I was committed to the show within the first ten minutes. The honesty and humor of the play, considering it deals with depression and mental illness, got me emotionally invested, and the use of the audience as collaborators in the performance appealed to my love of spontaneous performance,” Phillips said.
Though spontaneous performance is also one of the most difficult parts of putting on a one-man show that relies for the most part on audience participation. Phillips has stated that in rehearsals simulating the audience’s interaction can be difficult but he relies on his background as an improv actor to get him through it.
“It’s been great to partner and work with the folks at Safe Harbors, especially June Henley who has been a huge help in making this happen” Phillips said. “ Finally, working with Alex and Sierra makes coming to the theatre a joyful experience.”
Audiences will get a varied experience out of this show. If someone goes to a performance each night, they will get a different experience due to the way the audience participates. The show itself is a unique experience in the way it mixes humor into a story that contains serious subject matter. There’s also a great message that can resonate with a lot of people, that even though mental illness is a struggle there is help and things can get better.
‘Every Brilliant Thing’ will be showing on Friday September 13 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday September 14 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday September 15 at 3:00 p.m. at the Ritz Theatre at 107 Broadway in Newburgh. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door or at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4315305. For more information, call 845-569-3233.