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EVERYBODY Shaw Festival/Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre
Aug 16, 2022, 12:39
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Shea.s Performing Arts Center

Shaw Festival
Through October 8
EVERYBODY,/b> Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre

So often, Death is regarded as the end of a long life, but a certain destination.
Think of Tod or Mort or Mors, words from multiple languages for the same thing.
As a base for theater, death goes a long way back, perhaps beyond the Greeks and their stories of Persephone, the River Styx and Charon the Boatman.
But, it all assumes the inevitability of death.
Where you go and how you get there often depends on religion and your religious point of view.
The people of Europe 500 years ago when this play’s dramatic base was originally written in Dutch had lived through decades and centuries of war and plague and the 30 Years War looms.
In the Middle Ages, the Christian Church in Europe worked at spreading the Gospel to a basically illiterate people, using sermons, stained glass windows and religious season plays.
There are even scripts from some of those plays which have come down to us.
That’s where Branden Jacobs-Jenkins comes in, turning the mystery play “Everyman” into “Everybody,” on the Shaw Festival stage.
The key change is that this is secular instead of the Christian religion which suffuses the medieval mystery plays.
Here, Sharry Flett hops around as Death, the central element in the story.
It’s a story told by God (Deborah Hay) in a distorted voice (apparently deliberately), who tells the tale of the long passage of life to the finality of death (who is always there as a reminder).
One of the quirks of Jacobs-Jenkins’ play and director Laszlo Berczes staging is the lottery requirement for the main cast members, each of the DEI cast choosing lots for what part they will play in a performance.
That means the part of Everybody shifts around to eventually it’s played by every part of humanity.
The night I saw the play, it was Patrick Galligan.
As usual, he was wonderful.
Each night, each customer will get to judge how the part is played and how that determines their view of the course of life.
While these mystery plays were originally written for religious purposes, this script isn’t and that’s the playwright’s decision.
I thought some of the performances were overdone and at the Shaw Festival, that’s clearly a director’s choice, since there is a lot of rehearsal time and a lot of performances well before the formal opening.
That’s important because this production is in the relatively small Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre, which allows for very limited space for sets.
That means it’s a medieval story which probably had limited sets being told as a modern story on a modern stage.
The play’s the thing.
While I didn’t like a lot of “Everybody,” there probably is a large segment of the theater audience which will find this fascinating because it delves so far into the issues of life and death, carrying from the same issues in the days of the Reformation into the age of COVID.
It is worth seeing.


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