By Beki Pineda

EVERY BRILLIANT THING – Written by Duncan MacMillan; Directed by Peter J. Hughes. Produced by Vintage Theatre (1468 Dayton, Aurora) through April 14. Tickets available at 303-856-7830 or vintagetheatre.org.

There are people who were just born to be on a stage. You know – the little kids who intuitively turn toward the camera every time it is pointed in their direction. The ones who break out of the line at dance class to do their own version of THE NUTCRACKER. The ones who get the lead roles in  high school because they are serious about it and make the drama teachers happy that there is at least one kid in the show who didn’t do it to meet members of the opposite sex. Who becomes the actor you cannot take your eyes off when he is on the stage. Denver is blessed with several “born to be” actors . . . . but one of the best is John Ashton.

Whether he is “querying” the audience in MURDER MOST FOWL, playing a clown in THE NANCE, giving a standout performance in AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY as a weather-beaten husband, or defending his choice of a dog in SYLVIA, you cannot take your eyes off him. He brought environmental theatre to Denver with HOT L BALTIMORE, the first production at the Barth Hotel, and STANTON’S GARAGE in an old garage (now a ritzy restaurant on 17th Avenue). It feels however that all of his acting roles and his years of directing award winning shows have all been to bring him to the place in his head and in his heart so that he could deliver EVERY BRILLIANT THING. This could easily be the best thing he has ever done and ever will do.

He does it so easily that this most complicated, heartfelt comedy feels original and fresh every night.  It is no easy task to keep an audience engaged in the conversation of and with one man for 75 minutes. But John does it.  As you sense the play may be nearing a conclusion, you want to delay that and let it go on just a little longer. That would be a brilliant thing.  #14,999 – listening to John a little longer.

Duncan MacMillan wrote this play because he felt that no one was addressing the issue of suicidal depression in a meaningful way. So he wrote a comedy about a little boy who starts writing a list of brilliant things worth living for to give his depressed mother. He starts with little obvious things – ice cream, water fights, puppies. As the little boy becomes a man, The List takes on a character of its own and becomes a lifelong project. #455 – finding a hairdresser who listens to what you want.   #598 – Christopher Walken’s hair.  Everyone in the audience gets to contribute to The List in a simple sweet way by reading entries as John calls out the various numbers. The message of the play comes across in so many little ways, in between the laughs, through the tears. As MacMillan says, he wanted to show those with depression that “You’re not alone. You’re are not weird, and you will get through it, you’ve just got to hang on.”

By the way, this is Duncan MacMillan’s  year in Denver theatre. His first play LUNGS was part of the Miners Alley Playhouse season this year; his 1984 adaptation is still playing at Benchmark as we speak, and John’s rendition of EVERY BRILLIANT THING. He’s got one more play called PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS that some producer should be looking at.

Vintage graced the production with a brand new theatre in the round seating plan in the Bond-Trimble Theatre which allows the interaction between audience members and narrator even more intimacy. My sense of it is that this play could probably run for six months for people who would come back again and again to regain the respite you can find in discovering the brilliant things in your own life. But it will probably have to close on the announced date of April 14. #140,309 – a full house for this show every night!!

A WOW factor of 10!!