Last night, I saw Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' new play Everybody at the Signature Theatre Company. Though at first I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the piece, it won me over by the end.
Everybody is based on the medieval morality play Everyman, though Jacobs-Jenkins updates the piece and gives it a contemporary feel. As one character reminds us at the beginning, our English play Everyman is itself likely an adaptation of the Dutch play Elckerlijc, so further adaptation seems fair game.
The fact is, Death comes for Everybody, and in this production Death is the adorable Marylouise Burke, who also played the title character in last years' Imagining the Imaginary Invalid. The sweet older woman isn't taking anything from anybody, or Everybody, since Everybody is the main character in this play. (Get it?)
And who plays Everybody? Well, that depends on which night you go. Five actors of various ages, genders, and ethnicities form the core of the company, and one of them is chosen by lot to be Everybody. The rest play allegorical figures such as Friendship, Beauty, Stuff, and Kinship. There are a couple of other surprises, too, so don't count on getting your program until after the play is over. They want to keep some of the secrets.
Lila Neugebauer competently directs this production, and I was particularly taken by the simple but effective set, designed by Laura Jellinek. Just when you think you know where the play is going, along comes a new twist, keeping the audience on its toes.
If you want to see the play, it's running until March 12th. You can find more information at:
Signature Theatre Company