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Kevin Harris is heartfelt and humorous in SLO Rep's bittersweet one-man show, Every Brilliant Thing 

click to enlarge ALL FOR ONE Sole cast member Kevin Harris stars as an unnamed protagonist in SLO Rep's production of Every Brilliant Thing, a poignant one-man show.

Courtesy Photos By Rylo Media Design, Ryan C. Loyd

ALL FOR ONE Sole cast member Kevin Harris stars as an unnamed protagonist in SLO Rep's production of Every Brilliant Thing, a poignant one-man show.

Don't go into SLO Rep's latest production empty-handed. Bring tissues. Lots of tissues. Within the first 15 minutes of the performance I attended, there were few dry eyes to be found in the audience.

I suspect even the most stoic of attendees of Every Brilliant Thing will be susceptible to tears, but not just in reaction to the play's most solemn, remorseful reflections. This one-man show is full of heart and humor, and some examples of the latter had me on the verge of cry-laughing.

The play tackles heavy topics, including grief and suicide, and its sole actor onstage, Kevin Harris, achieves a remarkable balancing act as his character opens up to the audience about his most personal fears, regrets, small joys, and guilty pleasures.

The show starts with Harris' unnamed protagonist recalling a few key moments from his childhood and reenacting some of them. He often enlists assistance from volunteers in the audience to help jog his memory, and most of these instances result in the tears of joy I alluded to.

click to enlarge WILL YOU MARRY ME? In one instance, during the protagonist's recollections of his college years, Kevin Harris picks someone from the front row to join him onstage, get down on one knee, and ask for his hand in marriage. - COURTESY PHOTOS BY RYLO MEDIA DESIGN, RYAN C. LOYD
  • Courtesy Photos By Rylo Media Design, Ryan C. Loyd
  • WILL YOU MARRY ME? In one instance, during the protagonist's recollections of his college years, Kevin Harris picks someone from the front row to join him onstage, get down on one knee, and ask for his hand in marriage.

In one scene, after Harris' recollections have progressed to his college years, the actor picks someone from the front row to join him onstage, get down on one knee, and ask for his hand in marriage. Ninety-nine percent of the show is scripted, from the thoughtful musings of co-authors Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, but it's so much fun to watch scenes like the marriage proposal and other moments of spontaneity where occasional improv is inevitable.

Throughout the show, no matter which era of his life Harris is recalling, the topic of discussion he consistently jumps back to is a list he started compiling as a child. At age 7, the protagonist is told that his mother is in the hospital because she's "done something stupid," his father said vaguely, and finds it hard to be happy. This inspires Harris to start making a list of "everything that's brilliant about the world"; things worth living for—ice cream, staying up late to watch TV, etc.

click to enlarge OFF STAGE The show starts with its sole character (Kevin Harris, right) recalling a few key moments from his childhood and reenacting some of them, often enlisting volunteers in the audience to help jog his memory. - COURTESY PHOTOS BY RYLO MEDIA DESIGN, RYAN C. LOYD
  • Courtesy Photos By Rylo Media Design, Ryan C. Loyd
  • OFF STAGE The show starts with its sole character (Kevin Harris, right) recalling a few key moments from his childhood and reenacting some of them, often enlisting volunteers in the audience to help jog his memory.

Harris' character continues to add items to the list as he grows older but also faces periods of depression that leave the list idle for long stretches of time.

After some performances of the show (check website for scheduling), talkbacks are held with Harris and mental health experts from Transitions-Mental Health Association (TMHA), which partnered with SLO Rep to co-produce this iteration of Every Brilliant Thing.

The production's director, Suzy Newman, thanked TMHA for providing "knowledgeable, dedicated people to guide discussions and answer questions after the show" in the show's program, where she also encourages attendees to take some time to process their feelings following the play, regardless of whether they're able to stay for a talkback or not.

"Every good piece of theatre continues after the lights go down, requiring processing and figuring out; syncing thoughts with gut feelings. This is why a drink with friends after a show is so welcome and common, and a substantial car ride home with a partner is not a bad thing," Newman wrote.

click to enlarge DROP THE MIC Ninety-nine percent of the show is scripted, from the thoughtful musings of the play's co-authors Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, but it's fun to watch scenes with audience participation, where occasional improv becomes inevitable. - COURTESY PHOTOS BY RYLO MEDIA DESIGN, RYAN C. LOYD
  • Courtesy Photos By Rylo Media Design, Ryan C. Loyd
  • DROP THE MIC Ninety-nine percent of the show is scripted, from the thoughtful musings of the play's co-authors Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, but it's fun to watch scenes with audience participation, where occasional improv becomes inevitable.

"No theatre exists without someone to watch and experience it. After our shared experience of the last two years, coming out of your home with the intention of sitting in a small space with other humans has become an intensely personal journey," she added. "Thank you for being here and being part of this story." Δ

Send some of your favorite "brilliant things" to Calendar Editor Caleb Wiseblood at cwiseblood@newtimesslo.com.

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