Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Play at Sturgeon Bay IS brilliant

Read Highlights from Warren Gerds’ review of EVERY BRILLIANT THING from WeAreGreenBay.com

By: Warren Gerds from WeAreGreenBay.Com
Posted: Sept 08, 2017 08:38 AM CDT

“Somewhere quickly a threshold is passed.

It may be early, when a boy holds his beloved, aged dog in his arms as a veterinarian brings the animal peace. It’s the boy’s first experience with death, and he’s not sure what death means.

This interplay is enacted by an actor holding a folded coat (as the dog) with a person from the audience as the vet.

Some instant in there the play becomes not a play but an experience with a greater purpose.

“Every Brilliant Thing” still is a play. It has an audience, in this case with a schedule of 28 more performances through Oct. 15. It is held in a professional theater, Studio Theatre of Third Avenue Playhouse. Performing is a professional actor, Dan Klarer, speaking scripted lines.

But how Klarer speaks the lines… and when… and with/opposite whom is a matter of spontaneity.

And to what purpose? To engage people in thoughts about what makes life great, what makes life worth living – versus the times when the soul goes as low as it can seemingly go.

‘Every Brilliant Thing’ is a hybrid. It is improvisational scripted theater, somewhat. It has a story, and effect in telling it changes from performance to performance because the players – individual audience members – change in the ‘roles’ from performance to performance.

Klarer really has to think on his feet, act and react, bring a cause and effect, know when to use a certain line or head a scene in the intended direction. Thursday, Klarer backed up the scene with the veterinarian; the audience “actor” needed to step away from her automatic urge to giggle so as to make the scene tender. By controlling the situation, Klarer made the scene – boy holds pal as pal is put to sleep – a grabber. And then Klarer had the audience (or at least me) in his clutches the rest of the way as this buoyant being telling things he needed to get out.

That’s another thing about ‘Every Brilliant Thing.’ It is one of those pieces of theater that serve as a catharsis. It lets the cat out of the bag, so to speak, expresses thoughts and feelings that in times past people held in and suffered/wondered/agonized about. Suicide is a big enough thing that most people can relate to it because of brushes or direct hits with it through family and friends. ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ is a release valve… or at least an instigator of reflection or perspective.

This summer, Klarer acted in three productions at Peninsula Players Theatre – scripted roles in set pieces. Now he is at Third Avenue Playhouse, where he has performed in assorted pieces, including the one-man “Santaland Diaries.” For ‘Every Brilliant Thing,’ he was tapped by director Robert Boles, who molds theater productions like sculptors shape expressive works of art.

In Thursday’s audience talkback, Klarer and Boles talked about how they prepared for this production; in rehearsals, Klarer worked off/with small audiences to get the feel for the real deal, being that the audience interplay is essential to “Every Brilliant Thing.” Twenty or so members are seated on the stage, and some of those will have speaking “roles.” The rest of the audience is seated in standard seats. Klarer is in continual motion as he interacts with individuals on stage and throughout the rest of the theater. This is practiced ad-libbed scripted spur-of-the-moment seat-of-the-pants performance that only a few performers can do – which is why Boles picked Klarer to do it, because Boles knew Klarer could pull it off.

‘Every Brilliant Thing’ is a very good thing in a lot of ways.

At minimum, it is a unique theater experience.”

To read Warren Gerds’ full review click here.