By Michael Buzzelli
Before “Every Brilliant Thing” begins, Director Andrew Paul is handing out Oreo cookies and Mint Milano’s to the audience, while actor Marcus Weiss is handing out yellow Post-it notes with random numbers and words on them.
Number One: Ice Cream.
Number Four: The color Yellow.
Number One Thousand and Nine: Dancing in Public, Fearlessly.
“Every Brilliant Thing” is a one-man-show. It’s a biography, a TED Talk and so much more. It’s easy to forget that Weiss is playing a character, one created by Playwright Duncan McMillan.
Actor Jonny Donahue first played the role and gave it his own Zazz! Enough so, that he gets credit for his involvement.
This comedic show is about a mental illness. Weiss’s character is coping with a parent who is battling with suicidal thoughts. The character creates a list of all of the best things in life, calling it the list of “Every Brilliant Thing.? In reality, it is a simplistic coping mechanism from his childhood. The show is about how the list exits and enters his life.
Warning: There is some audience participation. Mostly, a patron will be called on to read their particular Post-It out loud. Sometimes, a theater-goer is coaxed into doing a little bit more.
Weiss – and I mean this in the best possible way – is a maniac. He’s carrying Robin Williams energy, bouncing around the stage infused with boyish charm. The quips are rapid-fire. But this show is mostly about heart.
The actor puts his audience at ease. It’s easy to feel like you’re listening to a very good friend describe his childhood.
It is such a natural performance. It’s easy to forget Weiss is playing a character. Hence the reason for the near-constant reiteration of this factoid.
Paul lets Weiss loose. He gives him a nearly bare canvas to slather layers of emotion like paint on Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait.”
Note: Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait, 1889” is inches thick with oil paint, the blues and the yellows are vibrant. He also struggled with suicidal thoughts his whole life.
While it’s gauche to criticize the audience, let’s say some people are more attuned to participation more than others.
Note: If the interactivity scares you, mention it to someone before the show, but don’t let it put you off from seeing it.
Johnmichael Bohach’s set is a Romy and Michele inspired nightmare (second reference to a Prom for no good reason). Bleachers on all sides surround a simple yellow square, but the walls are adorned with Post-It notes.
Weiss describes a moment when a needle plunks down on vinyl, finds the groove and the music begins. The moment was perfectly timed and captured by Sound Designer Mark Whitehead.
Number One Million, Four Hundred and Thirty-seven: Being inspired by great works of art.
“Every Brilliant Thing” runs until June 11 at the Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre
in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland. For more information, click here.
If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). If you are located outside the United States, call your local emergency line immediately.