More often than not, Spoleto Festival USA has one or two stand-out one-man plays. Sometimes they’re extended monologues (see Mike Daisey’s now-discredited The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs), while other times they are theatrical curiosities that mix a variety of approaches (see, 2013’s magic-filled discussion about freewill, Bullet Catch). Last year was the rare exception from that. But this year, we have two stand-outs, the U.S. premiere of A Gambler’s Guide to Dying and Every Brilliant Thing, which is set to be the funniest play about suicide you’ll ever see, and I mean that quite honestly.
Written by UK playwright Duncan MacMillian with an assist from comedian Johnny Donahoe, Every Brilliant Thing is the tale of an unnamed narrator — it could be either man or a woman, but in our case it’s the aforementioned Donahoe — who guides us through his lifelong attempt to prevent his mother from killing herself. His solution: Compile a list of “every brilliant thing” in the world and share it with her, all with the hope that she’ll see that life is very much worth living. The story follows the narrator from his childhood up through his college years and marriage, with the list of brilliant things growing ever more nuanced and profound.
Although the play is hilarious, Every Brilliant Thing is far from a farce. This is real-deal, hit-you-in-the-feels fare, albeit one packed with a hefty dose of audience participation and improvisation, much of which has been tailored to Donahoe’s particular talents. I really don’t want to explain it anymore out of fear of spoiling the joys of MacMillian’s play, but this is one to really look out for this Spoleto season.
To learn more or buy tickets, visit Spoleto Festival USA.