Spinning Tree offers new perspective on sensitive topic

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J. Robert Schrader/Spinning Tree Theatre

A breakout performance; a lively, fresh, inter-active play; a new venue; and a sensitive look at those affected by suicide create a new dimension in theatre while opening Spinning Tree Theatre’s nineth season.

1. Butter pecan ice cream
2. Elizabeth Taylor
3. Riding/driving in a convertible in summer
4. Coconut cream pie
5. Picking and eating a fresh tomato
6. Marilyn Monroe
7. Halloween when you are ten years old
8. Bicardi
9. Walking down a street in Rome
10. The cancellation of “Hee-Haw”

Those things make me happy and are inspired by “Every Brilliant Thing,” Spinning Tree’s new production that opened Saturday, August 17 at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center and runs through Sept. 1.

Spinning Tree Thearre

An overwhelming performance by R.H. Wilhoit absolutely stuns audiences with the rapid-fire delivery and the improvisational aptitude for his immediate reaction to the audience participation platform. “Every Brilliant Thing” takes you on a journey inside his fragile mind as he grows from childhood to adulthood, as a survivor of Depression. Wilhoit takes the audience on a hazardous adventure of a person who deals with a suicidal parent. His performance brings joy, sadness, sympathy, happiness, sorrow, and humor to a tormented soul searching for completeness and security.

J. Robert Schrader/Spinning Tree Theatre

The innocent, tenderness of a child attempting to help his mother through Depression offers a lot of statistics and suggestions as the play progresses. “Every Brilliant Thing” shows the effects on survivors of suicide attempts and how their lives change as a result. The powerful, heart-rendering play informs, entertains, and edifies the audience’s view of suicide. The play illuminates the invisible turmoil inside survivors.

“Every Brilliant Thing,” a play by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe immerses the audience in the list building of random thoughts of things that made Wilhoit’s character happy when he faces new hurdles and emotional crises. The play depends on the audience to focus on the main character’s dialogue and shout out specific words and phrases on cue.. For this, the audience must continually focus on the spoken dialogue for their cues.

Spinning Tree Theatre

The play features a bond between director Doug Weaver and Wilhoit to portray an unnamed character and develop him through his mother’s Chronic Depression. The list begins with simplistic thoughts to help the mother find reasons to live, but as life changes, the list takes on deeper thoughts and moods. The list becomes increasingly important and sometimes to a manic escape from problems. Weaver directed Wilhoit though this arduous piece that found the main character alone on stage for the entire show without intermission. The memorization factor is truly amazing.

The simplistic set is a bench and the backdrop of a collection of album covers. Other than the bench, Wilhoit fills in the gaps for the lack of scenery and props. The audience fills in the balance. Lights never dim for the performance and the audience knows their cues and await to see how their participation affects and fits into the puzzle.

Simply amazing, overwhelmingly tender, freshly presented with unblemished thoughts makes “Every Brilliant Thing” a stunning production for Spinning Tree’s season opener.

The creative team of Doug Weaver, director; Jeff Eubank, sound designer; Connor Tierney, projections designer; Sally Farrand, lighting designer; Eric Palmquist, props designer; Addison Landes, production assistant, and Spencer Thompson, stage manager created this beautiful journey through a survivor’s soul.

“Every Brilliant Thing” continues through Sept. 1 For more information and ticketing go to Spinning Tree Theatre’s website.

Tags: Spinning Tree Theatre, “Every Brilliant Thing” review, Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

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