Seashells. Messages. Ice cream. David Bowie. Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose.
These are just samples of the small and wonderful brilliant people and things that surround us, happy and awe-inspiring sketches of life that are treasured memories. They also are the basis of British playwright’s Duncan Macmillan’s gentle and heartfelt one-man play, Every Brilliant Thing, in collaboration with Jonny Donahoe, now playing at Oregon Contemporary Theatre.
It is not a play that just samples the small beauties that surround us. Every Brilliant Thing is Macmillan and Donahoe’s nuanced attempt to capture the heart and soul of people who suffer from depression, to show them the lights of life that encircle us, to penetrate the wall of debilitating blackness and form genuine human connection.
Every Brilliant Thing starts with the story of a 7-year-old British boy whose mother suffers from depression. She’s in the hospital, and his father tells him that his mother finds it hard to be happy and that she self-harms. So the boy sets out to show his mother in Post-it-type notes all the small things in life that give light, everything that is worth living for. While the depression never goes away, the list continues. It grows by the years, and it is heart-warming and often humorous.
The play has caught fire in mental health communities since its debut in the 2010s for its message of hope and resilience, both for people who suffer through depression and the loved ones who surround them.
Eric Braman — a performer and writer based in Eugene — is the narrator for OCT’s production.