I do not know how I missed it, but Everybody is a rather free adaptation of Everyman, that fifteenth century allegory most theater history students have read at one time or another. You figure you're going to go your whole life without actually seeing Everyman, so it was kind of fun to catch a contemporary version of it, though there are some quotes here and there from an original text/translation. I think at this precarious time in the world, seeing a play that ruminates on life and death, mortality and morality, race and identity, and self v society has a special resonance. There were allusions and comments on many current events, including the election from hell, that were sitting on top of the timeless topicality of the play itself.
I've seen two other plays by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Appropriate (review HERE ), and War (review HERE ). Most of the other reviews of Everybody makes mention of how eclectic Jacobs-Jenkins is, how none of his plays are really alike. I can see that, though I thought this quote in my review of War was pretty apropos of how I felt last night: "This is only the second play I've seen by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and it's clear he has a lot to say. I will enjoy hearing more from him in the future. Even if I didn't find War to be completely successful, it's definitely worthy of your time and attention. It's well-acted, smart, thought-provoking, and very funny in places. Those types of plays are always worth supporting."
On the whole, I think I liked Everybody more than that, but otherwise, the quote is pretty accurate. I did find the play less successful in some places than in others. The production is very meta-theatrical, with lots of in-jokes and seemingly off-the-cuff humor - it starts with a gal in a Signature Theatre t-shirt, coming down to the front of the house to ask us to turn off our phones. At first, you think she's really an employee, but as her 'pre-show' announcement gets longer and longer, then it becomes clear she's part of the show. She then turns into God, who summons Death (played by a riotously funny Marylouise Burke), then suddenly audience members start standing up throughout the house and they're part of the show, too. I was nervous they were looking for audience participation, but no, these were the actors.
|photo credit: Monique Carboni|
|I saw him as Everybody last night (photo credit: Monique Carboni)|
The sets and lights were terrific and I also enjoyed the original music in the play. I feel as if I don't want to spoil all of the clever fun that is in Everybody, but there's so much that made me laugh out loud beside all the other stuff that made me think. Before I forget, though, I want to mention that there was one moment in the play, one theatrical device, that delighted me more than nearly anything I've ever seen. I was completely tickled by it. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking, 'why am I so tickled by this?!' but I really was. I sort of levitated with delight and, in that moment, was yet again reminded why theater is so important. To me and to society. For moments like that. I'll remember it forever.
As I said before, I think Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has a lot of things he wants to say and I think he's worth listening to. I definitely think you should try to see Everybody - I've not seen anything quite like it before. I don't intend to make the same mistake before his next play and pray that someone takes me to see it. We need our playwrights to keep talking and if it takes me buying tickets to keep them talking, I'm all in.