12 Peers Theater’s latest production is the 2018 Pulitzer Prize Finalist play, Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Based on the play, Everyman, a 15th century morality play, Everybody tackles life, death, and one’s own impermanence and transience. Everybody is an engaging, moving piece of work that will strike a chord with anyone watching.
Everybody follows Everybody who has been chosen by Death for a “presentation” in which they will speak in front of God and say why they lived their life in the way they did. Death promises Everybody can bring something/someone with them on the journey, so Everybody seeks out Friendship, Kinship, Stuff, Love, and others to see if they will occupancy him/her on the journey.
What is unique about this show is that there are 120 different versions of it. Yes, you read that correctly. The show begins with a lottery between the actors in which they find out what role(s) they will be taking on throughout the show. Because of this, the show offers a different experience every night. So, the show that I saw could be completely different than the one you will see. The lottery represents the randomness of life and death, and getting called to go on a journey without warning.
This aspect of the show is impressive and made me appreciate everyone working on the show. At the drop of the hat the actors and crew have to be ready to present a show they didn’t know was going to happen a few moments earlier. The actors have to know every single part of the play, and be prepared to take on any role at any time. The crew must be prepared for any of these actors to be Everybody, and make the necessary arrangements for any and all behind-the-scenes work. For this aspect alone I have tremendous respect for everyone involved with this play.
The set is simplistic but effective. There are Edison lights hanging around the space that flash and glow at random intervals that make it feel like a dream, or like one is time-traveling. There’s a stone tower/building in the center of the theater with the words “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here,” which sets the tone for the show. Sound plays a big role in the show, and is used to show Everybody’s inner thoughts. In between scenes the lights are off and the audience listens to a (pre-recorded) conversation between the actors about the journey that Everybody is going through. We also hear a few (pre-recorded) monologues from Everybody as they process their journey. I’m sure this makes it a lot easier on the actors who already have a lot on their plate, but it also adds to the mystery/dream-like quality of the show. There are a lot of gray areas in the show where you’re unsure if it’s a dream or reality, but as the show itself says, it depends on what reality means to you.
I’ve already said this a few times, but major props have to be given to the cast of Everybody. As an actor myself, I couldn’t imagine having to memorize every line in the show and being able to take on any role at the drop of a hat. For my particular performance, Everybody was played by John Feightner. I really enjoyed his performance, and felt he was easy to relate to. I felt for him seeing him go through this journey alone, and processing the “point” of his existence. The show features a strong ensemble, which is necessary for a show of this caliber. I enjoyed them in the roles they played for this performance, but it made me wonder how they would tackle the role of Everybody. It would be interesting to see what each of them would bring to the role, and what quirks and personalities would be unique to their Everybody. I don’t think you’d be able to pull off a show like this without a strong cast, and 12 Peers Theater definitely couldn’t have asked for a better group of actors.
Everybody exceeded my expectations with its out-of-the-box conventionality, and its moving and relatable story. The cast shines in this production, and are supported by a brilliant crew and script. Besides the lottery, the show offers a few other surprises (that I won’t spoil here) that throws theater through a loop. I’m not lying when I say this is a show you can see multiple times and come out of it with a different experience every time. You can’t say that about most theater.
Everybody plays at the Richard E. Raugh Studio Theatre through August 18. For tickets and more information, visit 12 Peers Site.
Photography Credit: Greg Messmer
Jade Goodes is a graduate of Penn State University where she received her degree in English. While attending Penn State she became the Managing Editor for the school’s literary & arts magazine, Absence. Jade has been involved with the Pittsburgh theater community since elementary school, and has performed in many productions over the years. In her free time she enjoys reading and attending all the concerts she can.
Categories: Archived Reviews