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Middlebury actors stage ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ at VT Coffee Co.

MIDDLEBURY — What are the things that truly make life truly worth living? You could make a list. And that’s exactly what the central character in Middlebury Actors Workshop’s production of Duncan Macmillan’s “Every Brilliant Thing,” decides to do. Played by Aly Perry, she starts her list on the terrible day her mother of her mother’s first suicide attempt. The list begins with childish pleasures: ice cream, water fights, staying up past bedtime to watch TV.
As the daughter grows, the lengthening list evolves into a lifelong project, designed not only to ward off her mother’s depression, but her own despair. This list grows to a thousand items and plays a leading role in her life, leading eventually to lasting love.
But if listening to a recitation of anyone else’s long list of “happy thoughts” doesn’t sound like great theater, don’t worry; that’s not at all how this play works, director Robin Fawcett explains.
“The list is the least important thing about the play,” said Fawcett. “It’s about the entire experience.”
Nearly every item on the list is called out by an audience member, prompted by lively back-and-forth with the onstage actor. A few other key roles in the story are also acted by audience volunteers. The effect is an immersive theater experience of uncommon emotional power.
Perry, herself a theater director, discovered the play, written by Duncan Macmillan in collaboration with British stand-up comic Jonny Donahoe, and recruited Fawcett to stage it. It took a while to obtain rights and find a venue, but MAW director Melissa Lourie stepped up.
Suicidal thoughts, sadly, can be contagious, but so is playful optimism. Fawcett and Perry asked friends who had witnessed rehearsals to list their own vivifying moments. Some responses: Playing games with people who like playing more than winning. A friend laughing at something I’ve said. Hanging upside down. Sledding double. Bike parades. Throwing someone your car keys.
One guest said afterward, “The play opens up a new way of thinking, a new way of looking at things. You walk out, not with answers, but questions. You think, hmm, maybe I can do things differently. I’d like that.”
Every Brilliant Thing will be presented in the Vermont Coffee Company Playhouse (1197 Exchange Street in Middlebury). Tickets can be purchased though the Town Hall Theater’s Box Office at (802) 382-9222 or online at townhalltheater.org.
Every Brilliant Thing
by Duncan Macmillan, with Jonny Donahoe
Directed by Robin Fawcett and Featuring Aly Perry
Produced by Melissa Lourie of Middlebury Actors Workshop
Opens Thursday, June 20, continues June 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., plus Sunday matinee at 2 p.m., June 23.
Additional performances in July at the Phantom Theater in Warren and in September at the FlynnSpace in Burlington.
For details see middleburyactors.org

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