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Illuminated Theatre Company Shines its Spotlight on Every Brilliant Thing

Every Brilliant Thing stage
Photos courtesy of The Illuminated Stage

Some theatre companies have the innate ability to take over an existing space and using all of their alchemical powers change it from a place of business to a place of spellbinding performance. Others, such as the brand new Illuminated Stage company are fortunate enough to be born into a new facility that seems to have all of the bells and whistles that a theatre family could want.

However, new toys do not a great theatre make. The stage and its accoutrements are merely the body and it’s up to the people who run the company to provide the heart and soul that will provide the necessary magic that will transport audiences.

Fortunately for the audience who made their way to the Jimmy Dean Theatre at the Perkinson Center for The Arts & Education to see The Illuminated Stage’s production of Every Brilliant Thing, they were treated to a strong but ultimately healing performance by Louise Keeton.

In order to be totally transparent, Louise Keeton is a fellow employee of VPM in a different division, so our paths rarely cross. However, we are friends, but agree that all opinions given about performances must be delivered with total honesty.

Keeton tells the story from age 7 to grown up of a person who has lived with a depressed mother who has attempted suicide, so in an attempt to cheer her up, Keeton’s character starts a list of every brilliant thing that life has to offer. Upon entering the theatre, each member of the audience is given a slip of paper with a number and a phrase to exclaim when that number is called.

As she ages, Keeton calls on members of the audience to play small parts – a veterinarian, her father, a teacher (with a sock doggie), a lecturer, and eventually her boyfriend and husband. Don’t be afraid to get called upon to play one of these parts, Keeton handles each person with kid gloves and turns each person into a star.

Studies have shown that children of depressed parents are more likely to grow up depressed themselves. As a disease, depression is not always easy to spot – many depressed people become masters of hiding behind masks so that they appear to be perfectly happy on the outside but barely holding on on the inside. Keeton’s character walks that tightrope and her fragility is heartbreaking to watch.

At times, every audience member just wants to give her a hug and tell her it’s going to be alright – and at other times, her own enthusiasm tells us there is really nothing to worry about, her list will eventually see her through.

Gretta Daughtery’s lights keep things moving as Keeton moves around the stage and sometimes out into the audience. Sets and costumes are done by director Julie Fulcher-Davis and the ample space is well delineated and comfortable. Fulcher-Davis keeps the pace fairly tight so that when she does build in a pause, it carries a little more weight and we as an audience feel it more.

Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe is a serious play with a light approach. In the hands of strong actress and director, it brings to life a subject matter that in lesser hands might be reduced to the level of an after school special. In this beautiful new space, it becomes an evening that packs a solid punch and leaves one hopeful for even more good work from this new company.