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‘Brilliant’ Play Addresses Depression with Humor, Heart and Zeal in Jackson

Editor’s note: The following article talks about suicide and may be difficult for some readers. If you are having thoughts about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text 741-741, or reach the Department of Mental Health at 1-877-210-8513.

Two actors gush about their rotating roles at the center of the solo tour de force, “Every Brilliant Thing,” coming up at New Stage Theatre. Ray McFarland’s boyish grin spreads often and wide, riding the fervor of his enthusiasm. The gleam in Ali Dinkins’ eyes is constant, fueled from her passion for this production.

This scene may seem unexpected for a contemporary play dealing with the struggles of depression following the attempted suicide of a parent. However, the play’s brilliance beyond its title is what wins them over—the resilience of its life-affirming focus, the humor in its words, the heart of its message and the interactive spirit of its presentation. The show may have a similar effect on audiences, too, they suspect.

“Every Brilliant Thing,” a creation of Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, refers to a list of every wonderful thing that makes life worth living—a list started by a 7-year-old trying to cope with a mother’s chronic depression. The list grows into a tally of life’s small joys, continuing to change a family’s life and bring light and hope to dark spaces.

“I fell in love with it, right as I read it,” McFarland says. All directors and acting teachers he has ever worked with from Jackson to New York City have told him, “Good theater teaches a lesson,” he recounts. “Look for that in what your character says, where the play is going.” He conveyed that message to his own students when he taught at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.

Ali Dinkins will rotate in the role of the narrator in the play “Every Brilliant Thing,” a solo tour de force that is flexible and universal enough to suit a wide variety of performers in the part, Sherry Lucas writes. Photo courtesy New Stage Theatre

McFarland describes the show as neither preachy nor sad. “Most people

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