Brown Paper Box Co’s Production of Everybody
Two chairs, a ladder, a ghost light and a bunch of black curtains that have been taped together comprise the set of Brown Paper Box Co’s production of Everybody at The Buena at Pride Arts Center. Because the script is based on a 15th -Century morality play, it’s not surprising that the set could be so sparse. During the first major transition of the play, when Chelsea David delivers a monologue, the entire theater goes black. .A sole ghost light comes on in the intimate space. Stylized and theatrical, it struck this writer as a surprising but intriguing choice by promising lighting designer Michelle E. Benda.
Everybody Could Be Anybody
One of the exciting things about this particular script is that the five actors cast as Everybody are assigned roles via a lottery that takes place about ten minutes into the play. One actor pulls the Everybody track as the other four pull different character tracks. As the script says, “This is done in an attempt to more closely thematize the randomness of death while also destabilizing your preconceived notions about identity, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.”
As the actors break character you get to see how nervous (or excited) some of the actors are as they discover what they’ve pulled. The night reviewed was Alex Madda’s third time in a row to pull the Everybody card making her the lead for the evening. This reviewer can only imagine how hard it is find a company of dedicated actors willing to learn the bulk of a play and be able to recite the majority of the character’s lines on the shortest notice possible. It’s also tough on the actors because the person who pulls the Everybody track is on stage the whole time and will (SPOILER ALERT!!!) spend a few moments being partially nude on stage.
While we can only imagine how hard the lottery can be on the five actors who have to learn an entire script, this format is a boon for audiences because there are 120 possible variations depending on the way the cards fall! Brown Paper Box Co. is hoping audience realize what a rarity this is and are offering a punch card promising 50% the second viewing and a free ticket to the third performance. They’re so confident that the odds are in their favor that Artistic Director Kristi Szczepanek, in their program notes, promises she’ll buy a drink to anyone who sees the same cast twice.
Is Everybody for Everybody?
The show’s main idea is that death is the thing that connects us all. While there’s plenty of fun and laughs along the way, it’s still a play ultimately following Everybody as they find someone to accompany them to their untimely demise. This reviewer found some beautiful thoughts on death expressed within the script and memorable lighting choices that dramatically punctuate some of these moments. While some could argue that this script doesn’t quite reach the highs of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ An Octaroon or Gloria, there are still just enough breadcrumbs for his most diehard fans to recognize his work. If nothing else, it’s kind of cool to go multiple times to see how different actors handle different roles. There quite a few gems in this ensemble and anybody could be Everybody on any given day.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Kenny the Bearded
Erin Shea Brady
Sarah D. Espinoza
Thru August 5
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 7:30 PM
Sundays 3:30 PM
The Buena at Pride Arts Center
4147 N Broadway St.
Chicago, IL 60613
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago
About the Author
Sharai Bohannon is a playwright, and an avid theatre practitioner, who is very excited to write about most things but especially Chicago Theatre. She has a background in journalism and technical theatre and is excited that those degrees will be put to use in a way that gives her an excuse to leave her couch and brave this “outside” that people keep telling her about. When not on her couch watching TV, she can be found working one of her multiple jobs and/or hunting down a happy hour near you. Read some of Sharai Bohannon’s New Works on New Play Exchange.