Everybody: Yes, including you

Publicity shot for Everybody at Studio 58

Few of us know when our number’s going to be up; in this production, actors don’t know what roles they’ll play.
(Photo of Kevin Nguyen by Emily Cooper)

I love this show about as much as I’ve loved anything in two years.

Early on in Everybody, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s adaptation of the fifth-century morality play Everyman, Death, who kickstarts the action, says, “You’re all dying, starting now.” Of course, we’re all dying all the time, we’d just rather not think about it — and, the script argues, that’s to our detriment: fleeing into distraction, we fail to live fully.

Because this is a morality play, the characters and situations are archetypal. When Death randomly picks Everybody for imminent demise, they beg to be allowed company on their journey. Death grants them a brief respite to try to find someone brave enough to go to the grave with them. (Because the casting of Everybody changes with each performance, I’m going to use gender-neutral pronouns throughout this review.)

One of the things I love most about Everybody is that it is so deeply theatrical. Jacobs-Jenkins sets the play in a theatre, which is, like life, an arena of illusion. (Scholars believe Everyman may be based on a Buddhist fable.) As the action progresses, Everybody recounts a dream to other characters, their fellow doomed, and there are constant questions about what’s real and what’s a mirage. (Theatre relishes the space for self-awareness and reflection that its artifice allows.) [Read more…]

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