Theater Review: ‘Every Brilliant Thing’

Every brilliant thing that one can think of
December 23, 2014 Updated: December 23, 2014

NEW YORK—Prior to the performance, a young, very energetic man circulates among members of the audience, passing out to many of us slips of paper on which is written a number and a word or phrase. When our number is called we are to immediately call out our word.

My assignment is 123,345 and the word “palindromes.” I was never to be called upon, but the young man turns out to be Jonny Donahoe, sole performer (also stand-up comedian) in “Every Brilliant Thing.”

The title refers to a list of wonderful things that the protagonist has created for the purpose of easing his mother’s depressive state.

Quote: Every Brilliant Thing

Along the way, we learn of the hero’s family life, his beloved dog, Sherlock Bones, who sadly has to be put down. Some items on the list include ice cream and roller coasters. The Performer meets a young woman, who proposes to him (featuring an audience member on bended knee), and they marry.

The heart of the piece lies in the quality and extent of audience participation and thus is a different performance each night. The performance I attended featured a number of acting wannabes who took great delight in being granted the spotlight.

One particular standout was an older man who left his seat, took center stage, and briefly pontificated about the excellence of the show’s concept. He seemed well pleased at being playwright, actor, and critic, all at the same time.

Unfortunately, according to the text, the extensive and creative list did not alleviate the mother’s depression. However, the result of playwright Duncan Macmillan’s cogitations, with Jonny Donahoe’s participation and under George Perrin’s direction, is a light, bright, and witty theater piece, accomplished in only about one hour’s playing time.


‘Every Brilliant Thing’
Barrow Street Theatre
27 Barrow St.
Running Time: 1 hour
Tickets: 212-868-4444 or
Closes: March 29, 2015


Diana Barth publishes New Millennium, an arts publication. For information, see