Scott Greer Delivers A One Man Tour-De-Force Performance In Milwaukee Rep’s EVERY BRILLIANT THING

Reviewed By: Matthew Perta

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Theater that’s therapeutic.  That’s how I can best describe Every Brilliant Thing, a new play written by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe that the Milwaukee Repertory Theater unveiled in its black-box Stiemke Studio recently.  Who would think a play about combatting mental illness could be a fun thing?  But that’s exactly what I discovered after taking part in the production one April night.  Wait, did I say, “taking part?”  Yes, I’ll explain in a minute.  

Every Brilliant Thing is about a sensitive boy who devises an ingenious way to help his mother fight depression: he comes up with a list of things in life that may seem small or silly or insignificant to us in our daily lives but are actually quite wonderful – so wonderful we don’t realize how much they make our lives bearable.  As the list grows, so does our hero.  He sees the impact the list has on his own life over the course of three decades.  He needs the list, too, as he experiences the death of his beloved dog, Sherlock Bones, and later as he falls in love and gets married. 

The brilliant thing about Every Brilliant Thing is that it’s interactive: Before the action starts on stage, Scott Greer, our boy genius here, hands out file cards to various members of the audience. On each card is a number – mine was No. 24 – and something is written on the card which he adds to his list.  When Greer calls out the number during the performance, the audience shouts out what’s written on the card, so the audience is actually participating in the making this life-saving list.  When I heard “No. 24,” I shouted out “spaghetti and meatballs.”  Other list makers included: “Bingo,” the sock-puppet dog of favorite his elementary school teacher, Mrs. Patterson; “Bubble Wrap,” “Really Good Oranges,” “Sunlight” and one of my favorites, “The Prospect of Dressing Up Like a Mexican Wrestler.”  Greer also picks members of the audience to play his father, teacher, college professor, veterinarian and wife.

Scott Greer adds to the brilliance of Every Brilliant Thing with a moving portrayal that sweeps the audience along on an unforgettable journey through the joys and sorrows of one’s life.  Greer was named “Best Theatre Talent” by Philadelphia Magazine, and throughout his career has earned other prestigious honors.  In Every Brilliant Thing, Greer delivers a sensational one-man tour de force, so it’s easy to see why he’s received so much acclaim as a stage actor. 

Through humor and compassion, Every Brilliant Thing aims to lift the stigma that’s too often attached to mental illness and suicide.  We are reminded here that things get better, that feeling depressed is only normal.  Every Brilliant Thing offers us important messages we need to grasp as a society and as individuals.  This play is definitely a must-see. 

Every Brilliant Thing unleashes its potent magic through May 5 in the Stiemke Studio, 108 E. Wells in downtown Milwaukee.  For tickets, visit www.MilwaukeeRep.com or call (414) 224-9490.