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The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Nick+Haas+took+the+stage+during+the+first+showing+of+Every+Brilliant+Thing+at+the+ViSTA+Theatre+on+Nov.+11.+%28Ashley+Flowers%2FThe+Collegian%29
Nick Haas took the stage during the first showing of “Every Brilliant Thing” at the ViSTA Theatre on Nov. 11. (Ashley Flowers/The Collegian)

Review: Interactive play ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ features emotional performance

Every Brilliant Thing” premiered on Friday, Nov. 11 at the ViSTA Theatre, taking audiences on a journey of coping and self-discovery.

The script was written by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe. The production, presented by The Fools Collaborative, features alternating performances between Nick Haas and Camille Gaston beginning with Haas, and was directed by Fresno State alumnus Miguel Gastelum.

The play revolves around the life of a child struggling to cope with the increasingly tense relationship between his parents. After the child’s mother attempts suicide, she is placed in a hospital before eventually coming home. The child decides to create a list of “every brilliant thing” in life in an attempt to lift their mother’s spirits.

The story takes us from childhood to adulthood, with Haas as the sole actor. As the child grows, so does the list; but so do their worries as they leave for college uncertain about the future of their parents’ relationship, which  is strained by the mother’s suicidal tendencies.

Haas’ performance evolves as the play progresses. He captures the whimsical and naive nature of a child trying to understand suicide. Later, he is able to exhibit a genuine anxiety that permeates through the audience, as his character tries their best to manage life through its ups and downs. 

Sublime joy is conveyed through his delivery and body language, with one peak of the play revolving around a gleeful dance around the venue, during which he exudes a passionate energy. On the other hand, when heartbreak and strife befalls his character, a gloomy and despondent mood takes over, his energy replaced with a powerful sorrow.

This dynamic performance is what drives the play from being simply a story about how a person suffers and grows to being an engrossing experience that captures the complexities of emotions and conveys the struggles of a human being trying to find their way through life.

The use of audience interaction also makes the performance more engaging. Upon entry to the production, audience members were given small pieces of paper, each with a unique number and idea written on them. When Haas calls out an entry number from the list, the audience members are able to yell out the line written on their piece of paper. 

At other points of the play, Haas takes members of the audience to play characters from the life of the main character, including his character’s father and love interest, guiding them and interacting with them in an organic manner.

Music and sound effects supplement the production, creating a more authentic atmosphere and allowing the audience to better empathize with the experiences of the main character. It also adds another layer to Haas’ dynamic performance. 

When music kicks in and Haas begins to dance to the beat, one almost feels like kicking their chair and joining him. The sounds of an engine running or a door closing produce a feeling of closeness to the main character and when combined, the music and sounds make Haas’ character come to life.

Overall, “Every Brilliant Thing” is a captivating production that excellently conveys the emotions of a person trying to cope with loss and the complication of life. 

At times, it absorbs audiences with a feeling of splendor, but it doesn’t shy from expressing feelings of melancholy and despair. The performance, coupled with the use of audience interaction, sound and music, come together to create a genuine, emotional production.

“Every Brilliant Thing” will continue to show through Nov. 19. Tickets can be purchased online

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