‘Every Brilliant Thing’
by Duncan Macmillan, with Jonny Donahoe
Through Sunday, Oct. 8
Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre
By GWEN OREL
There’s nobody onstage to feed him a cue if he drops a line.
On the other hand, the entire audience is there to play with him.
Montclair actor Clark Scott Carmichael stars in “Every Brilliant Thing,” by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe, at Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre in Summit.
The hardest thing about the show, for Carmichael, is that he’s alone onstage.
But pulling people onstage to play with him is also what makes the show fun.
The play, which runs through Sunday, Oct. 8, is about a child whose mother attempts suicide. It begins when the child is 6, and he makes a list of everything wonderful about the world to cheer her up.
Number one: “Ice cream.”
Number 4: “Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose.”
But the play, and the list, continue as the boy grows up, goes to college, gets married, and faces his own problems.
“It’s the story of the list, and how the list saved him,” Carmichael said.
Carmichael has been a member of Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre for 15 years. The nonprofit ensemble of actors was founded in 1994. In addition to new plays, original work, cabarets, and improv shows, the company also hosts Dreamcatcher Junior, a summer program for children ages 10 to 17.
Carmichael said that Dreamcatcher’s artistic director, Laura Ekstrand, who also directs “Every Brilliant Thing,” brought the play to him saying, “I think you’d be right for this.”
Carmichael agreed. “It is kind of terrifying.
“I have not done a one-person show before. In a lot of ways, it’s just telling a long story.”
Dreamcatcher’s production is the play’s New Jersey premiere. It hails originally from England; Jonny Donahoe is a British comedian, and toured the play himself in England and then to Off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theatre. The play, according to Theatermania, began as a short story by English playwright Duncan Macmillan.
A filmed adaptation can also be seen on HBO GO, which includes the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK, and the crisis text line.
The script stipulates that it can be altered to “make it your own,” Carmichael said.
Donohoe plays keyboards, but Carmichael doesn’t, so in the play he uses a guitar.
Instead of being set in England, the play is set in the Midwest. The main character takes his honeymoon in the Wisconsin Dells.
“I grew up mainly in Kansas City,” Carmichael said. He’s appeared at Centenary Stage Company in Hackettstown, at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison, at Irish Repertory Theatre, and many others. He will appear in the upcoming film “The Kindergarten Teacher” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Rehearsing essentially on his own was a fair amount of stress, he said. Because members of the audience sometimes read bits of the list, and at other times are pulled onto stage with him, “I can only guess so much at what people are going to say.
“I have to get new people into rehearse the improv.” He laughed. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Although the play is a specific story, Carmichael said he thinks everyone “will be able to see some aspect of their own story in it, whether a friend, or a person with depression, a parent, a teacher.”
For him, one part of the play that hits home is a scene where he’s driving in the car with his father.
Carmichael’s parents were divorced, and he often spent time with his father driving up and down I-29.
The scene shows the father’s perspective, and then the child’s.
Carmichael said, “It definitely made me reexamine myself as a parent.”