Monday, October 9, 2017

Every Brilliant Thing—Portland Center Stage—Pearl District

Life’s Pleasures!

This one-man (Isaac Lamb) serio-comedy is written by Duncan Macmillian with Jonny Donahoe and is directed by Rose Riordan.  It is playing in the Ellyn Bye Studio at PCS’s, the Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave., through November 5th (parking can be a challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly).  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-445-3700.

Into every life some rain must fall, it is said, but that doesn’t in the least mean, that life is not worth living.  When in doubt, consider Marie’s advice in her song and calculate “some of my favorite things.”  And to shake your fist and rail at the heavens because of some misfortune doesn’t mean the cards are stacked against you forever.  Like an enduring Grandfather clock, when the pendulum swings one way, it always has to swing back the other way as well.  Plus, consider an old adage that seems to ring true, “whenever God closes a door, somewhere a window is opened.”  Or, “every cloud has a silver lining.”

But the character in this play probably says it best, “things will get better.”  And if you sense a common theme in these comments, you’re right, suicide and depression are major topics in this play (as in the other, very good show at PCS, “Fun Home.”) but the character in this memory play does have a very simple solution to suicide:  “Don’t do it!”  In his case he got into a therapy group and was able to talk about it.  Of course, he did have a little help from “Mr. Pickle” (but to hear the rest of that story from him, or is ilk, you’ll have to see the show, won’t you?!).

If this sounds like it’s going to be a depressing, maudlin story, you’d be very wrong.  In his case, he had a mother that was suicidal and at 7 years old decided to begin a list of things he liked.  Over the years he will accumulate about a million things, some of which he would share with his Mom.  He meets a girl in college, Sam, and they marry.  But there are still some unanswered questions in his life.  Why is it he can’t seem to have fun, or be really happy?  One way to get out of the doldrums is to share his list with others and, better yet, have others add to his list of their favorite things.  And that is where the real magic of this production comes into play.

It is interactive and is an audience participation event.  Members of the audience are ask to play various characters in his biography, like the vet, who had to silence his beloved childhood pet, Sherlock Bones; or his Dad, and sometimes himself; or the school counselor; or the love of his life, Sam (strangely, he never asks anyone to play his Mom); and, of course, the know-it-all, “Mr. Pickles;” et. al.  He also has assigned various audience members to call out items from his list when he recites the numbers.  And, by the end, he will ask audience members to share items in their list on stick-um sheets and paste them on the lobby walls.  This is a play that benefits from being shared, not explained.

Of course that begs the question, what are some of my favorite things or memories, so here are five:  favorite food that is bad for you--Bacon-Cheeseburgers; favorite tear-jerker--Robert Downey’s film, “Hearts and Souls;” favorite being(s)—my best friends through life, all six of my dogs; favorite icon--Walt Disney, he created magic; and favorite place(s)—a tie between Ashland, OR (OSF) and Cannon Beach, OR, a place where my soul breathes.  And if you get down in the dumps, why not make a list for yourself.

Lamb is a treasure, both on the stage as a performer (who could forget his terrific creation in Portland Playhouse’s, “Peter and the Starcatcher.”) and as a director.  He is perfectly at ease as he breathes life into this character and as he handles the audience.  It’s as if you are sitting in a comfortable atmosphere with him and just reminiscing about life.  He puts you that much at ease.  Well done by him and Riordan, the director who had to modulate the performance and have him weave in and out of the audience area, aiding in the energy flow.

I recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

And, if you need help with depression or suicidal tendencies, or know someone who is in need of this kind of help, here are some aids:  Crisis Line at 503-988-4888 and/or

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