CCAE Theatricals Brings Poignant Reminder About the Simple Joys of Life with Latest Production

 "Every Brilliant Thing". Currently Playing Until July 21st

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Allison Spratt Pearce in "Every Brilliant Thing."    Photo by Michael Pearce 

It is funny how things come up with age or while growing into adulthood. The more theatre I see, -which is a lot-, the more nervous I get with interactive pieces lol. So, as I entered the theatre space at California Center for the Arts and was brought through the back to go to a smaller space in the round I thought: "What are we doing?". I was unaware that such a space lived over there. CCAE Theatricals's second production of the season goes to the round and intimate with Every Brilliant Thing, written by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe. A one-person play with a big impact directed by artistic director J. Scott Lapp with assistant director Yoni Kruvi. As a side note, there was a production of this piece at the Geffen Playhouse last year and there's a documentary on HBO

Matthew Herman's stage design laid on the corners of the stage having a bench that would hold place for a car, and a couch. There was also a corner with a table that had a record player and books, where in the performance that I saw, Allison Spratt Pearce would take props courtesy of Holly Lapp that went from boxes with memories, to a full-on Casio digital piano. The show will alternate with three other actors as the narrator, Bethany Slomka, Deandre Simmons, and Steven Lone. 

Bethany Slomka, Allison Spratt Pearce, Deandre Simmons, and Steven Lone. Photo CCAE Theatricals

The 70-minute no-intermission piece takes audiences through the life of a person with a suicidal parent. When this person is seven years old and there is the first attempt, the child decides to create a list to help her mom cope with depression. The list entails the most wonderful and simplest things in life like having dessert for dinner, staying up past your bedtime, and watching TV. As years go by, the list reaches 1 million things. The show is interactive and audience members get numbers from the list to say out loud once Allison calls for the number. As she narrates her life, she also enlists audience members to play key roles like father, veterinarian, boyfriend, lecturer, etc. Prompting the lines in their ears to repeat with intention. This is a tricky move as audiences are "invited" to participate on the spot and, this can go in any direction... I would recommend some type of warning having audience members with anxiety or stage fright in mind as not everybody will be or feel confident enough to participate no matter how small the line. Allison handled it well improvising wittily with the histrionic response from her scene partners which made the experience dynamic and balanced the heavy subject matter. The piece also touches upon the domino effect with family members and the environment as mental health is "genetic" and depression can take different forms.

J. Scott Lapp's direction from Witnesses to Curious Incident, has shown a sensitive and delicate style that syncs with these types of works. Spratt Pearce performs the tone and intention in each moment whether it is sad, frustrating, or happy, and again, her playfulness with the audience as she invites them to the stage as with the seated audience, is fast and on the spot. I love me a good denim jumper and it suited the narration, as it works for illustrating the different age ranges. Allison also changes hairstyles to emphasize the ranges from pigtails, to ponytails, to a side pony, and hair down. These are the details that help round out the moment. Coleman Ray Clark's lighting design was bright and pertinent to the setting. Clark who was also responsible for the sound design, serenaded audiences with different classics like "At Last" and "Move on Up" (I am a Jeffersons fan) amongst others. There are moments with a hand-held microphone that went through smoothly as the volume was strong but did not overpower the small space.

As my colleague and fellow SD Theatre Critic, David Coddon mentioned in his piece, to fully review CCAE's production we would have to see all four actors as each performance will be completely different from the narrator to the participating audience members. This definitely makes for a rich and varied run with -shall I say-, a flavor for each taste?

Regardless, Every Brilliant Thing has a well-written script that touches upon something that sadly, is common in our present time. Having the play put out the reminder to just stop and smell the air, noticing all the wonderful things around is special. This piece is very fitting to CCAE and having a smaller intimate production after the elaborate works we have had these past two years, is special too. 

I consider it to be thing number 1,000,001 on the list. 

Currently playing until July 21 in Escondido. For performance days and times please click here

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