Tag Archives: Marianna Bassham

Opening The Door To Talking About Depression and Suicide

Every Brilliant Thing
SpeakEasy Stage Company, Boston

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Every Brilliant Thing is a one person play about depression and suicide, two subjects that undoubtedly make most people very uncomfortable when talked about. But talked about they should be, and author Duncan Macmillan has shown us the way to do this in this charming, caring, and quite funny work that also conveys so much of what we should be hearing in any conversation about this subject.

Adrianne Krstansky
(Photo Credit: Maggie Hall)

The production now playing at the SpeakEasy Stage is set in the round with the lights up throughout the entire performance. It is billed as a one person piece, that one person being played by Adrianne Krstansky, but it also involves a tremendous amount of audience participation. Ms Krstansky, whose character remains unnamed throughout, is in the theater meeting with audience members as they take their seats. She is giving many of them slips of paper with a number and words written on them. She is also making eye contact with others to see who would be comfortable with being a part of the show but is careful not to make anyone feel uncomfortable as the whole point of this is to put people at ease while talking about difficult things.

The numbered slips of paper contain  entries from a list called Every Brilliant Thing, thoughts Ms Krstansky’s character began compiling at the age of seven as a way of coping with her mother’s depression and attempts at suicide. The list is not about material things, but is rather quotidian with thoughts such as “People who can’t sing, but don’t know or don’t care”, “Ice cream”, “Christopher Walken’s hair”, and “The prospect of dressing up as a Mexican wrestler”. You’ll find yourself making your own list as the play moves along.

Adrianne Krstansky
(Photo Credit: Maggie Hall)

Adrianne Krstansky moves about the stage and through the audience with calm and grace as she interacts with and has members step in to play various people who come into her life; There is the vet who euthanizes her dog, Mrs. Patterson who uses a sock puppet, the lecturer at university who has his students read Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, and her first love and future husband Sam. At the performance I attended, the young man who assumed the role of Sam became quite emotional at one point. The spontaneity made for a very touching experience, something that makes this work so powerful.

In an interview with the author in the program notes, Duncan Macmillan tells us he wants the work to show us a way to talk about the most serious things in a way that isn’t serious. Now, while that may sound a bit oxymoronic it is just what he has accomplished. Every Brilliant Thing does not leave you emotionally drained, but it does get a very serious message across, and while this isn’t a group therapy session you will feel a bond with the people sitting around you and especially with Ms Krstansky who speaks to and touches all of us.

If you suffer from depression or know anyone who does you will find comfort in this play. And for those of you who have known someone who has fallen victim to suicide or if you have had such thoughts you will find there are those who understand you. There is so much to learn from attending a performance. I didn’t know that whenever a high profile person takes his or her own life it cause a spike in suicides, something known as the Werther Effect. With depression it is, as Mr. Macmillan says, either “treated as a taboo and ignored, or it is fetishized and glamorized”. It should be neither. We have to learn to discuss it with the understanding and caring that is conveyed in this play, and that is why I believe the people who most would benefit from seeing it is those who think depression is something you can just will away, it isn’t.

Do not be afraid to see Every Brilliant Thing as you will not be forced to speak or play a part in it unless you want to. You will not be made to feel uncomfortable. The treatment of the darkness that touches so many of us is dealt with in a way that allows us to talk about it in order to dispel the shame that causes so many to withdraw to an even darker place. Putting words to suffering is such an important step in dealing with it. Having people with empathy and openness listening allows sufferers to feel unafraid to talk.

As I was exiting the theater I couldn’t help but think how leaving the stage lit during the play was a metaphor for us shedding light on a subject that has remained hidden for too long. For all of our so-called understanding of and openness about mental illness we are still miles away from removing the stigma attached to it. The SpeakEasy Stage Company, Adrianne Krstansky, Duncan Macmillan, and director Marianna Bassham have done much to change how we view this illness. This message should be heard. Every Brilliant Thing could be the most important play performed this season. It very well may change your life, and that is a good thing.

Every Brilliant Thing
SpeakEasy Stage, Calderwood Pavillon, South End, Boston
Written by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe
Directed by Marianna Bassham
Performed by Adrianne Krstansky
SpeakEasy Stage Company
Calderwood Pavillion, South End, Boston
Through March 31
speakeasystage.com 617.933.8600

Every Brilliant Thing Opens At SpeakEasy Stage

The SpeakEasy Stage Presents Every Brilliant Thing

From March 2-31, 2018, SpeakEasy Stage Company will proudly present the Boston premiere of the charming and life-affirming solo show Every Brilliant Thing.

Written by British playwright Duncan MacMillan (Lungs; People, Places, and Things) , and originally performed by British comedian Jonny Donohoe, Every Brilliant Thing  explores depression, and looks at the lengths we will go to help those we love. The story begins when a young girl compiles a list of things worth living for in an effort to ease her mother’s sadness: things like ice cream, and water fights, and staying up past your bedtime to watch TV. Through adulthood, as the list grows, she comes to understand the deep significance the list has had on her own life, and the irrepressible resilience inside us all.

Adrianne Krstansky will star in this one person show, which explores this delicate topic with equal parts grace and humor. Ms. Krstansky recently won both an Elliot Norton and IRNE Award for her work as Lola in the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Come Back, Little Sheba. Her SpeakEasy credits include lead roles in the Boston premieres of Tribes, Body Awareness, and Snakebit.

Marianna Bassham will be making her SpeakEasy directing debut with this production. Ms. Bassham received both an Elliot Norton and IRNE Award for her performance in SpeakEasy’s production of Blackbird. Her other SpeakEasy acting credits include In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play); Reckless; and Hand to God. Ms. Bassham most recently appeared in as Marc Antony in an all-female production of Julius Caesar for Actors’ Shakespeare Project.

The design team for Every Brilliant Thing includes Eric Levenson (scenic and lighting); Amanda Ostrow Mason (costumes); Lee Schuna (sound), and Abby Shenker (props).

Becca Freifeld is the Production Stage Manager.

Every Brilliant Thing will run for five weeks, from March 2- 31, 2018 in the round in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

Ticket prices start at $25, with discounts for students, seniors, and persons age 25 and under.
For tickets or more information, the public is invited to call the box office at 617.933.8600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com.

Don’t Bring The Kids To This Puppet Show

Hand To God
SpeakEasy Stage
Calderwood Pavilion, Boston
Through February 4th

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Waiting for the curtain to rise for Hand To God I was listening to the usual pre theatre check list regarding shutting off cell phones and noting the exits. The speech was given in what “enlightened” people in the cities believe is a rural accent, with references to Jesus. I thought, oh here we go, another play that takes plenty of cheap shots at the “uneducated” working class that is motivated by a multitude of “isms” when they vote. You know, those hayseeds who cling to their guns and Bibles.

Tyrone Attacks Timothy
Photo: Glenn Perry Photography

My fears were not realized. While I could see that many believers would be offended by much of the humor in the play, it wasn’t gratuitous. This is a very dark and disturbing comedy that looks into the lives of five characters who are struggling to find answers and meaning in their lives. Primarily, Margery (Marianna Bassham), who has recently lost her husband, and her son Jason (Eliot Purcell) who is struggling with the loss of his father.

Eliot Purcell as Jason/Tyrone is superb.

Margery runs a Christian puppet theatre at the local church and Jason is one of the puppeteers. Things start to go off the rails when Tyrone, the sock puppet Jason manipulates starts to take on a life off his own. Tyrone does not mince words. He is vulgar, vicious, violent, blunt, and truthful. It appears to the other members of the church, as well as the audience, that demonic possession may be at play here. And that is what is at the core of this very funny and unsettling play; Should we listen to that dark side when it speaks to us? Though we say we want to hear the truth, do we often feel so uncomfortable with it that we write it off as something the devil has created?

Eliot Purcell as Jason/Tyrone is superb. In what must be a very difficult role that involves many scenes where he has to play opposite his hand, he nails it.

Marianna Bassham as Margery and David Ladani Sanchez as the unruly teen Timothy are hysterical in the scene where they lust after each other while tearing up the puppet theater. Bassham is also touching in conveying the hurt and loss Margery is suffering.

Tyrone, Jason, Pastor Greg.
Photo Credit: Glenn Perry Photography

Lewis D. Wheeler as Pastor Greg and Josephine Elwood as Jessica are also well cast.

Ironically, as the play concludes the author, Robert Askins, found the need to become a bit preachy himself. This was not needed and actually seemed to be a bit hypocritical.

This play is not for everyone. The language is quite vulgar and the fun made of “uneducated”believers who eat at Chick-fil-a, while not over the top, will offend many.

It would be interesting to attend a performance with a group of devout Christians and then have a talk back afterwards. The results of that conversation may be surprising. And, after all, isn’t theatre about getting people to think about things and then listen to each other’s views? I think it would be fun.