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Everybody Needs to See PlayMakers Rep’s Everybody. What a Piece of Work!

David Adamson stars as Death, and Kathryn Hunter-Williams plays multiple roles (photo by HuthPhoto)

Everybody, written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and directed by Orlando Pabotoy, as they say, “has it all!” An adaptation of the medieval English morality play Everyman, this current production of PlayMakers Repertory Company offers a poignant reminder of the rich history of theater-in-English while, at the same time, fulfilling the all of the past-and-present goals of theatrical endeavors: entertainment, education, inspiration, introspection, etc.

Everybody unashamedly acknowledges its debt to its predecessor, and it cites earlier sources from which Everyman had drawn, thereby suggesting that the issues addressed in this work are timeless and universal. Indeed, part of the genius of this work is how expertly (and seamlessly) modern issues and topical references are melded with the original idea of people coming to their moment of death and “meeting God” while staying faithful to the original framework of the morality-play genre.

Everybody is an allegorical work. It begins with a welcome from a surprising source (played energetically by Kathryn Hunter-Williams) that contains elements of stand-up comedy and audience engaging exercises. This “host” then assumes the role of “God,” who further instructs and entertains us (raising questions about the afterlife) and then summons “Death” (an imposing but amusing David Adamson) and assigns the task to summon “Everybody” (played with a twist (and with aplomb) by a sextet of actors — see below).

Dan Toot stars as Stuff, and Kathryn Hunter-Williams plays multiple roles (photo by HuthPhoto)

Death basically tells Everybody: your time has come; you are to meet God and give an accounting/presentation of your life. Frightened by the prospect of doing so alone, Everybody bargains with Death and receives permission to seek a friend (or anybody) for companionship on this final journey to this final reckoning.

We then meet a series of allegorical characters, including “Friendship,” “Kinship,” and “Stuff.” Will any of them be willing to support and join Everybody? We eventually meet “Understanding” and “Love” (among others), and we are treated to a danse macabre as Everybody journeys to the grave.

The show runs a very quick 90 minutes, beginning with a totally bare stage (that also reveals the backstage area and includes the “ghost light” that theaters leave on between performances) and ends with a plethora of visual spectacles.

Anthony August and April Mae Davis star as Cousin and Everybody (photo by HuthPhoto)

Some nice touches include:

  1. A set of Freddy Krueger-ish fingernails
  2. A very precocious Maddie Johnson (and the method by which she is inducted into the performance)
  3. The entire first movement of the show — everything in Kathryn Hunter-Williams’ monologue.

Another very impressive touch is the method by which the roles are assigned to the six actors who portray Everybody. Apparently, all six actors have learned all of the roles, and there is a lottery (reminiscent of a Powerball® drawing) that determines which of the plethora of possible combinations will be presented during the performance in question. Especially impressive here are stretches during which one of these actors speaks the lines while another “lip synchs” them, and their timing is impeccable.

PlayMakers Rep’s production of Everybody stars Emily Bosco as Friendship (photo by HuthPhoto)

From the Department of Picky-Picky:

  1. There are 128 possible combinations for the Everybody actors, but the narrator tells us that there are 120.
  2. As impressive as they all are, the visual spectacles in the final stretch seem somewhat overly stretched-out and do become a bit tedious. Suggestion: compress, combine, and cut to the point of taking about half the time.

This show is a crowd-pleaser. Our recommendation: Everybody needs to see Everybody!

David Adamson (center) stars as Death, opposite Omolade Wey and Anthony August (photo by HuthPhoto)

SECOND OPINION: Jan. 27th Raleigh, NC Chatham Life & Style review by Dustin K. Britt, who awarded the show 4 Stars out of 5: https://chathamlifeandstyle.com/features-%26-reviews/f/theatre-review-camus-meets-lewis-carroll-in-magical-everybody; Jan. 27th Raleigh, NC Talkin’ Broadway: Raleigh/Durham review by Garrett Southerland: https://www.talkinbroadway.com/page/regional/rd/rd86.html; Jan. 27th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2020/01/playmakers-everybody-is-a-wild-intriguing-ride/; Jan. 22nd Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel (student newspaper) preview by Kristen Jones: https://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2020/01/playmakers-everybody-0123; and Jan. 15th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/events/everybody-unc-chapel-hill-2020/.

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents EVERYBODY at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28-31, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1, 2 p.m. Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4-8, and 2 p.m. Feb. 9 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art, 150 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

TICKETS: $15 and up (click here for Special Offers), except $15 general admission ($10 for UNC students with ID) on Community Night (Tuesday, Jan. 28th).

BOX OFFICE: 919-962-PLAY, prcboxoffice@unc.edu, or https://tickets.playmakersrep.org/events.

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-962-PLAY (7529), prcboxoffice@unc.edu, or http://playmakersrep.org/box-office/groups-and-special-events/.

SHOW: http://playmakersrep.org/show/everybody/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/1332737216911322/.

VIDEO PREVIEW: https://youtu.be/f5HR1VQJh6E.

PRC NEWS RELEASE: http://playmakersrep.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/PlayMakers-Presents-Everybody-Jan-22-to-Feb-9.pdf.

2019-2020 SEASON (Legacy Now): http://playmakersrep.org/season/2019-2020/.

PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.

PRC BLOG (Page to Stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.

VENUE: http://playmakersrep.org/about-us/paul-green-theatre/ and http://unchistory.web.unc.edu/building-narratives/paul-green-theatre/.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://playmakersrep.org/visitorinfo.

NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.

NOTE 2: There will be an All-Access Performance, with sign-language interpretation and audio description by Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 28th.

NOTE 3: There will be FREE post-show discussions, with members of the cast and creative team, following the show’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29th; 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2nd; and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4th, performances.

NOTE 4: There will be an Open Captioning Performance at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1st (for more information, click here).

NOTE 5: The Psychoanalytic Center of the Carolinas will sponsor a FREE post-show Mindplay psychoanalytic discussion after the show’s 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9th, performance.

OTHER LINKS:

Everybody (2017 Off-Broadway comedy): https://www.signaturetheatre.org/shows-and-events/Productions/2016-2017/Everybody.aspx (Signature Theatre page).

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (playwright): https://www.macfound.org/fellows/958/ (MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program bio), http://playmakersrep.org/artists/branden-jacobs-jenkins/ (PlayMakers Rep bio), http://iobdb.com/CreditableEntity/43969 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/branden-jacobs-jenkins-507016 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm7637702/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Branden_Jacobs-Jenkins (Wikipedia).

Orlando Pabotoy (director): https://tisch.nyu.edu/about/directory/drama/3416014 (New York University Tisch School of the Arts bio), http://playmakersrep.org/artists/orlando-pabotoy/ (PlayMakers Rep bio), http://iobdb.com/CreditableEntity/2905 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0655060/ (Internet Movie Database).

REVIEWER:

Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews