I was enchanted by the play “Everybody” on press night at Shakespeare Theatre Company (click here to read my review) and was delighted to have the chance to experience the play with a different casting on Friday, November 1, 2019.
For those who appreciate the richness of mind that outstanding theatre can take you to … I highly encourage you to see “Everybody” multiple times so that you can revel in the subtle layers that different castings illuminate.
A quirky element of the play is that the roles of five cast members are determined live on stage each night by lottery so I was eager to see how the play would change and read differently with some – or all – of the actors in different roles.
As Fate, God, and the Universe would have it – three of the actors were chosen for the exact same roles that I had seen on press night, including lead “Everybody” who was played again by the phenomenal Avi Roque.
Their absolutely endearing performance was a joy to watch for the second time as they wrestle with uncomfortable truths while they progressively discover the meanings (or lack thereof) of life. They go from flaming fury to vulnerable entreaties and made me empathize with the heart-wrenching challenges that a journey into death could present.
And, as the overall themes of the play sunk in for the second time – about the randomness of life (and death – and therefore, life) and especially our lack of control, I was reminded by the night’s lottery of how very little in life we can control.
That, in itself, is a brilliant example of the philosophic space that “Everybody” will take you to – if you let it. Let’s offer our thoughts and prayers to the audience member who walked out right past the actors in the middle of Love and Everybody’s emotional interaction in the front of the theatre – and then had a hissy fit when the actors cleverly improvised and called him out for leaving instead of floundering from the distraction and breaking character.
I have to say that if a particular play is not to your liking, blame the playwright or the director when you complain to your friends about it after the show – but don’t blame the actors who are performing live in front of you and thus vulnerable to distraction and rudeness from the audience. If you can’t sit through live theatre respectfully, stay at home and watch Netflix.
In the words of my ever-insightful brother, who accompanied me to this showing, not everybody likes plays that make you think. For those who appreciate the richness of mind that outstanding theatre can take you to, however, I highly encourage you to see “Everybody” multiple times so that you can revel in the subtle layers that different castings illuminate.
The two actors who switched roles in my second viewing were Alina Collins Maldonado (who played Kinship on Press Night and Friendship on Nov. 1) and Elan Zafir (Friendship on Press Night and now Kinship).
I was struck by how Elan Zafir on Press Night played the role of Friendship as a total bro. I’m actually not sure if he’s white or not, but the play posits that white is a racial construct vs. a skin color so… is it ok if I say that he acted like a totally white frat boy?
What was stunning on Nov. 1 was how Collins Maldonado took the same words – “dude” and all – and played the role in the style of her (apparently, again I’m guessing) Hispanic ethnicity and speech patterns. And remarkably, the words fit her and her character and racial presentation exactly as perfectly as they had fit Zafir’s frat boy construct. It really makes you think. Which is the point of the play.
It was also intriguing to see Collins Maldonado put extended pauses between words and phrases that Zafir had deliberately rushed – and both achieved stellar results that fit their characters and brought out the thematic points of the writing.
“Everybody” is, well, probably not a play for everybody. I mean, it should be. If life was fair, it would be. But some people will undoubtedly find the themes of Death and the spiritual challenges that the play presents too much to handle. However, if you’re brave enough, and if you can stay seated through any potential discomfort, I highly recommend that you see “Everybody” at Shakespeare Theatre Company not just once, but as many times as you can to experience the exquisite twists of random casting combinations and the remarkably stunning production that elevates theatre to performance art.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: Due to the philosophical nature of this production, it is probably best suited to high school age and above. There is profanity that may be unsuitable for younger children; parental discretion is advised. As the play is explicitly about death, it is not recommended for very young audiences.
“Everybody” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is playing through November 17, 2019, at Shakespeare Theatre Company. For more information, click here.