Every Brilliant Thing, a play written by Duncan Macmillan, is about a young boy’s effort to help his mom who is battling with depression that leads her to hurt herself. The boy tried to list every brilliant thing in this world to live for his mom.
There was something about this play that captured me, something that I keep on coming back to. I haven’t been reading plays lately and I originally bought this play in search of a monologue but when there was none I had no plans of reading it.
Something kept on hooking me in with this play, I couldn’t put it away. I kept on thinking about it and this week I took the time to give it a try, and I read the whole play. It was a very short read. I’m trying to find out what was that special thing that hooked me onto this play because I really couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I thought the concept and the story are really creative and sweet, a boy listing everything in the world to live for. First I thought it was a metaphor for the theme of the play but it is literally about a boy creating a list that went up to 1000000 things to live for. They obviously didn’t list everything in the play but they said the number went up there.
I think it was done on purpose, and very well done, that most characters didn’t have a name; the main ones didn’t, the boy, the mom, and the dad, they were just called that.
By not giving them a name it establishes the broadcast that it has. Literally, anyone can play these roles, anyone can be affected by depression. A family that struggles with depression and battles for each other to keep on fighting is way too often seen in this world, and that struggle is the beautiful yet heartbreaking concept to take away in this play. The only character in the play that had a name is Sam (the boy’s girlfriend when he was older) and Mrs. Patterson (the guidance counselor for the boy when he was young), I think there’s a specific reason why they’re named. They were the support for the boy, as they both were there when the boy was struggling or needed help, throughout the play. Mom and especially dad didn’t really give the boy anything, no comfort and I think it’s because of that, Sam and Mrs. Patterson were named. The two characters were special, and it was important to give them a proper character, almost listing them as a brilliant thing in this world.
The mother ended up taking her own life at the end of the play, but again I don’t think the play is about that. It is about the boy’s love toward his mom, toward his dad, the struggles he encounters, the innocent beautiful struggle that he grows through. The list of brilliant things started with ice cream, which is brilliant, but it can be seen as a very young child’s point of view of the world, and as the character grows older, the list also matured. I thought it was extremely gorgeous the way the play ended because I wasn’t really sure about why exactly the mom killed herself. The play concluded with the boy listing the very last brilliant thing in this world which is listening to a record for the first time and hearing the faint hiss and crackle of the sharp metal point on the wax before the music begins, then sitting and listening while reading through the sleeve notes; the song that played was Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall by Ella Fitzgerald and I later listened to it on my phone. The lyrics were “into each life, some rain must fall, but too much too much is falling in my”. I wouldn’t say there was a realization of any kind but it made me feel something, it made me feel as this play did exactly what it wanted to do, showing me a brilliant thing in this world, love.