Every Brilliant Thing OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Sara Krulwich


  • TM

Opening Night:
December 5, 2014
March 29, 2015

Theater: Barrow Street Theatre / 27 Barrow Street, New York, NY, 10014


1. Ice cream, 2. Water fights, 3. Things with stripes, 4. Christopher Walken’s voice, 5. Rollercoasters. In Every Brilliant Thing, a young boy attempts to ease his mother's depression by creating a list of all the best things in the world. Everything worth living for. Through adulthood, as the list grows, he learns the deep significance it has on his own life. Every Brilliant Thing is a new play about depression and the lengths we go to for those we love.

  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Every Brilliant Thing

    Raindrops on Roses, for the Potentially Suicidal

    Ben Brantley

    December 14, 2014: Even the most dry-eyed among us get weepy in December. There’s something about short, dark days piling up toward another year’s end, while carolers trill about comfort and joy, that brings out the Niobe in men and women of stone. Put one of them in front of a television with James Stewart on the brink in It’s a Wonderful Life, and you’ll need mops to wipe up the tears. If you’ve finally had your fill of that movie but are still in search of seasonal catharsis, might I suggest a very charming alternative, one that offers sentimentality without shame? It’s called Every Brilliant Thing, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to keep your eyes brimming. Granted, you may have to restrain yourself from out-and-out bawling. You see, even though it’s advertised as a one-man show, it’s quite possible that you’ll be asked to become a cast member of this production, which opened on Sunday night at the Barrow Street Theater. And you wouldn’t want to let down its ingratiating star, the British comedian Jonny Donahoe, by blubbering. Oh, dear. I have the feeling I may have scared you off with that last paragraph since it refers to things that give many New Yorkers I know the willies: one-person shows, British humor and (this is often the deal breaker) audience participation. But Every Brilliant Thing, written by Duncan Macmillan (with Mr. Donahoe) and directed by George Perrin, has a way of turning perceived bugaboos into blessings. Like It’s a Wonderful Life, in which Stewart is talked out of offing himself by a visiting angel, Brilliant (adapted from a short story by Mr. Macmillan) pits reasons to live against the urge not to. In this case, the advocate for team life is our narrator (Mr. Donahoe), who describes growing up with a suicidal mother, who first tries to kill herself when he is 7.

  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF Every Brilliant Thing

    Small Off-Broadway play tackles a the enormous subject of life and death

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    December 14, 2014: The funny and observant little heart-tugger Every Brilliant Thing is a reminder that good things come in small packages. Mind you, although this U.K. import — written by Duncan Macmillan, performed by Jonny Donahoe, who also added material, and directed by George Perrin — lasts only for an hour, the subject is vast. It’s about life and death. Specifically, it’s about what makes being on this Earth worthwhile between your first breath and your last. When you’re a 7-year-old boy whose depressed mother has just tried to kill herself — or as your dad so helpfully puts it, “done something stupid” — you think about those things. A lot. Then you make a list of what’s good and put it on your mom’s pillow to convince her why she should stick around. Need a reason to live? Ice cream in No. 1 on the list in Duncan Macmillan's engaging play. 1. Ice cream 2. Water fights 3. Staying up past your bedtime and being allowed to watch TV 4. The color yellow.

  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF Every Brilliant Thing

    Duncan MacMillan's solo play finds a joyful audience for its North American premiere at the Barrow Street Theatre

    Hayley Levitt

    December 14, 2014: Be prepared to participate when you take your seat at Every Brilliant Thing. Also be prepared to leave that seat at some point during the performance. No need to worry — but it couldn't hurt to come with a ready-made wedding toast and a novel you wouldn't mind being caught with. Duncan MacMillan's one-man play, performed by British comedian and musician Jonny Donahoe, crosses the pond for its North American premiere at the Barrow Street Theatre. Beyond the hefty contributions from the crowd that make it anything but a "one-man" endeavor, it's difficult to describe the performance piece as a "play" in the traditional sense. From the theater's in-the-round configuration to its star's casual rapport with the audience, Every Brilliant Thing is far more a communal experience — bordering on group therapy — than a passively absorbed theatrical presentation. Donahoe, however, with his genuine demeanor and infectious smile, succeeds in turning a piece about the grave subject of suicide into the most joyful session you'll ever attend. The show opens on a particularly somber note as our unnamed protagonist recalls his mother's first suicide attempt. Besides the passing of a childhood dog, this is the seven-year-old boy's first experience with death and the baggage that inevitably comes with it. Even so, the air in the room never sinks under the weight of this heavy load. A reenactment of his pup's final trip to the vet may not sound like a way to lighten the mood, but the brief detour adds a mild levity and childlike innocence to a subject typically filed under "adult content."



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