'Every Brilliant Thing' explores a child's growing list of what makes life worth living

"Every Brilliant Thing" runs through Feb. 27 at Horizon Theatre. (Horizon Theatre)

Ice cream, water fights, staying up past your bedtime, and being allowed to watch TV – these maybe just be a few of life’s beautiful treasures when you’re a kid. Horizon Theatre’s production of “Every Brilliant Thing” explores a child’s growing list of what makes life worth living when their mother suddenly goes to the hospital for depression. Director Jeff Adler and actors O’Neil Delapenha and Megan Hayes joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about the play’s unique way of sharing both joy and sadness with an interactive audience. The show opens Horizon’s 38th season and runs through Feb. 27.

“Every Brilliant Thing,” written by Duncan MacMillan and Johnny Donahoe, is a one-person performance but invites plenty of participation from its all-ages audiences, as well as flexibility in its singular stage role. “The playwright has suggested that the person who is telling the story could, and should, be of any gender, age, ethnicity, and so we have cast three actors to play the role and trade-in performance of the role,” said Adler. “So we have a variety of actors that tell the story on different nights.”

“Every Brilliant Thing” runs through Feb. 27 at Horizon Theatre. (Horizon Theatre)

Delapenha, one of the three actors taking on the storyteller role, emphasized the range of emotions captured in the play’s narrative. “It’s very true-to-life in that sense of, one minute, you can be feeling on top of the world because you’ve just met someone new and everything feels different and fuzzy and tingling inside, but at the same time, you can be thinking about how the same feelings came up in a different scenario and how it went down a different road, and make you feel sad or question the validity of the joy you’re feeling now,” Delapenha said. “I think the playwright does a wonderful job of going in and out of highs and lows just as we do in everyday life.”

The actors regaled their interviewer in performing an excerpt from the play, a scene from when the play’s storyteller falls in love. The two actors each took on the role of storyteller, contributing their own “brilliant things” to the list of life’s little joys, like “friendly cats,” “watching someone watching your favorite film,” and “falling asleep as soon as you get on the plane, waking up when you land and feeling like a time traveler.” In the actual theater, Delapenha would, at this point, undertake the project of fist-bumping every member of the audience. 

“You notice, on the list, every item of brilliant thing has its own number,” said Adler. “During the show, I hope I’m not giving too much away to say that audience participants are given some of the numbers with the thing to read out. So at times, the teller does not call out; someone in the audience calls out, ‘roller coasters,’ or whatever is the next thing on that list with the number that they have.”

Hayes shared her appreciation for the kind of compassionate conversation the play invites about issues like depression, as she comes from a family familiar with these struggles. “There’s not a lot of forums, safe forums to talk about these things,” she said. “We bottle things up and don’t speak of them, and what I love about this play so much is that it’s talked about in a very disarming and funny, at times, way, that really I’m hoping will resonate and connect me as a storyteller with the audience.”

Horizon Theatre’s production of “Every Brilliant Thing” takes place from Jan. 28 – Feb. 27, every day of the week, with multiple performances on weekend days. More information and tickets are available at http://horizontheatre.com/plays/every-brilliant-thing/