Kelsey is a Chicago based producer, actor, writer, critic, and mixologist. An alum of Black Box Acting’s ACADEMY Program, Kelsey curates “The Newness,” a monthly salon of new work. They also work closely with Trans Voices Cabaret Chicago as well as Chicago Theatre Access Auditions. Follow them on Insta! @playsandpours, @kelseylooks
Pictured: Francesca Sobrer | Zach Dries
By Kelsey McGrath
How can you review a 2018 Pulitzer prize finalist? The play is beautiful. It’s relevant. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ EVERYBODY is everything we need right now. EVERYBODY is our language, integrates our nuances, satisfies our pop culture nihilism. It confronts life via the inevitability of death. EVERYBODY challenges us to lean into this concept and conversation regardless of comfort levels. Director Erin Shea Brady’s program note mentions the value of connection and how EVERYBODY forces us to reflect on the importance of being present in a time of chaos and the gravity of Love.
Brown Paper Box Co’s production of EVERYBODY is as playful and as human as the title suggests. With a cast of extremely talented actors, EVERYBODY demands the roles of “Somebody,” played by Alex Madda, Hal Cosentino, Alys Dickerson, Donovan Session, and Francesca Sobrer, memorize five different character tracks. Essentially, the entire play. It is not until mid-show, when the actors draw their roles from a bingo cage, do they know who they’re playing for the night. (Thus reflecting the randomness of life.) God and Death, played by Chelsea Dàvid and Kenny the Bearded, have their own moments of meditation; both at the beginning and end of the show. God and Death work as poetic, amoral beings, tasked with the inevitable. Throughout “Somebody’s” journey, they meet “Love,” played by Tyler Anthony Smith and “Time,” played by Nora Fox, both key concepts in “Somebody’s” life-long learning.
This production is fueled by its text and its actors. Erin Shay Brady’s DIY, “bare bones” aesthetic inherently lifts up the cast’s abilities. Curated moments of intense honesty with little production value leaves just actor and story. These are touching moments. In contrast, the play’s movement as a whole lacks sharpness. While this messiness may have been deliberate, the director’s vision must be sharp to tackle a multi-faceted, abstract text. EVERYBODY’s multi-layered reach deserves a reciprocally meticulous execution. Leaning too deeply into a stark aesthetic can create space for missed opportunities.
Brown Paper Box Co’s EVERYBODY goes beyond conventional theatrical experience. It compels viewers to be vulnerable and reflective of their own morality; what an incredible experience to share with a room full of “Somebodys.”