It took an unconventional and highly creative playwright like Branden Jacobs-Jenkins – of “An Octoroon” and “Gloria” fame – to tackle a seemingly impossible task: adapting a medieval morality play into a palatable modern fable. Inspired by “Everyman,” EVERYBODY gets into seriously hot-potato topics, including God, Death, Love, and Time – to name only a few. With creative sleight of hand, Jacobs-Jenkins turns a morality play into an exploration of the meaning of life – and what really matters. Directed by Jennifer Chang, EVERYBODY takes to the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center this fall.
Graced by an extraordinarily gifted and experienced cast from the Antaeus Theatre Company, EVERYBODY shines with slyly creative moments as God (Cherish Monique Duke) chats with the audience about her disappointment with all of us before directing Death (Tony Amendola) to grab a few volunteers for a visit to the River Styx. But a problem soon develops. When Everybody (Harry Groener) finds out that he’s “won” the lottery for the journey, he doesn’t want to go it alone. It quickly becomes obvious that his family (Nicole Erb) and even his closest friends commiserate with him – but don’t feel quite ready to leave this plane. Like leaves falling from trees in the autumn, Everybody soon finds himself with empty branches – except for Love (Alberto Isaac), who generously agrees to make the trip with him. Along the way, the audience gets to meet Time (Dawn Didawick), Stuff/Senses (Lisa Sanaye Dring), Cousin/Mind (Gerard Joseph), and Friendship/Strength (Antonio Jaramillo).
Consistent with its parent medieval morality play, EVERYBODY is an allegorical tale of life’s journey to its final moment – but with some very clever tweaks to bring it from 1500 to today. Many in the cast are up there in years, making an exploration of Death a very relevant issue. In recent performer interviews in the Los Angeles Times, Charles McNulty points out that these seasoned actors will certainly see far more in the metaphors than their more youthful players – since they are living nearer to the end than the beginning of life. In fact, several cast members confirmed McNulty’s suspicions as they discussed their very personal responses to the conundrums raised. It is of particular interest in this play that – for every performance – actors are picked by lottery to play their roles. In other words, except for God, Death, and Love, each and every cast member must learn all of the other parts in anticipation of being chosen to play any of them. While some audience members may have had difficulty believing this, the cast members in the Los Angeles Times article confirmed the need to be ready to play any part from the pantheon above during any performance – and they found out their fate moments before the play called upon them to emote.
EVERYBODY is a fascinating and beguiling adventure which will certainly hold the audience’s attention. And it may be a given that, depending on the age of the audience member, each individual may see and experience things just a little differently. Jacobs-Jenkins also throws some tongue-in-cheek humor into the mix to update modern sensibilities. Chang skillfully helms the production and is amply rewarded by stunning performances by the uber-talented and seasoned ensemble cast. EVERYBODY is a little gem with lots of sparkle as life’s journey draws to a close (in a dumpster, of course).
EVERYBODY runs through September 15, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Mondays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center is located at 110 East Broadway, Glendale, CA 91205. Tickets are $40. For information and reservations, call 818-506-1983 or go online.