×

Off Broadway Review: ‘Everybody’ by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

With:
Jocelyn Bioh, Brooke Bloom, Michael Braun, Marylouise Burke, Louis Cancelmi, Lilyana Tiare Cornell, David Patrick Kelly, Lakisha Michelle May, Chris Perfetti.

The playwright Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins (“Gloria,” “An Octoroon”) must be concerned about the state of our immortal souls, because his new work, “Everybody” — now premiering at Off Broadway’s Signature Theater — is based on a medieval morality play that instructs sinners on how to repent and seek redemption. Something is inevitably lost in adapting the material for a modern audience that has outgrown its fear and awe of hellfire and damnation. But the story retains some power on a human level, and Jacobs-Jenkins plays up the randomness of death and the universality of the human condition by casting most of the major roles in this show by lottery at each performance.

When Everybody (David Patrick Kelly, by luck of the draw at one recent performance) protests his imminent death, he is given the option of taking a friend along for company. To his dismay, he discovers that no one with whom he spent the days and nights of his life — not Beauty (Brooke Bloom) or Friendship (Lakisha Michelle May) or even all the Stuff (Louis Cancelmi) he acquired over the course of his lifetime — is willing to accompany him in death.

Jocelyn Bioh makes a fetching God in this re-tooled educational drama, but she’s no match for Marylouise Burke’s adorable Death. (“I’m Death, who fears no man,” she trills in that birdlike voice of hers.) Their battle for the soul of Everybody is the heart of Jacobs-Jenkins’s adaptation of this medieval morality play that entertained and terrified true believers in the town square on holy days and feast days.

Director Lila Neugebauer stops short of making this an audience-participation event, as it was in the 15th century, when plays were as much teaching tools as entertainment, but she does try to inject a bit of drama into his repetitive quest by seating these candidates among the audience. Except for a dramatic appearance by two giant skeletons working the side aisles of the house, no serious attempt has been made to adapt medieval theatrical conventions for modern times — although God herself knows that we mortals are just as selfish and greedy as our medieval ancestors.

Popular on Variety

Off Broadway Review: 'Everybody' by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Signature Theater Center; 199 seats; $100 top. Opened Feb. 21, 2017. Reviewed Feb. 19. Running time: ONE HOUR, 40 MIN.

Production: A Signature Theater production of a play in two acts by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

Creative: Directed by Lila Neugebauer.  Sets, Laura Jellinek; costumes, Gabriel Berry; lighting, Matt Frey; sound design & original music, Brandon Wolcott; choreography, Raja Feather Kelly; production stage manager, Amanda Spooner.

Cast: Jocelyn Bioh, Brooke Bloom, Michael Braun, Marylouise Burke, Louis Cancelmi, Lilyana Tiare Cornell, David Patrick Kelly, Lakisha Michelle May, Chris Perfetti.

More Legit

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Announces Broadway Cast

    After an Olivier-winning run in London, “The Inheritance” is gearing up for its Broadway debut. The two-part epic has set the cast for its transfer from the West End to the Great White Way. John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H. Levine, Andrew Burnap and Kyle Soller are among the cast members reprising their roles [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Announces 2020 National Tour

    ‘Hadestown’, the eight-time Tony award winning Broadway musical, is set for a national tour in 2020. The show will stop in more than 30 cities including Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and more. The musical is a stage adaptation of the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and King Hades and his wife [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Listen: Why Jake Gyllenhaal Is His 'Best Self' in the Theater

    Looking for the best possible version of Jake Gyllenhaal? You’ll find it onstage, according to the actor himself. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I am my best self when I’m working in the theater,” Gyllenhaal said on the latest episode Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast, on which he appeared with Carrie Cracknell, the director of [...]

  • Photo: Jeremy Daniel

    'The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical' Gets Broadway Run

    “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” is Broadway bound. The musical adaptation of the franchise about a teenager who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon hits the Great White Way on Sept. 20 ahead of an Oct. 16 opening night. It comes on the heels of an extensive, nationwide tour that took the show [...]

  • Tom Sturridge Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge Celebrate 'Sea Wall/A Life' With Star-Studded Opening Night

    A star-studded audience looked on as Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge returned to the stage for their double monologue performance in “Sea Wall/A Life.” Theater-goers and celebs including Anne Hathaway, Tom Hiddleston and John Mulaney gathered in Manhattan’s Hudson Theatre for opening night, celebrating a show tackling grief, birth and death through the eyes of [...]

  • Bat Out of Hell review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Bat Out of Hell'

    No one has ever accused Jim Steinman of subtlety. The composer behind Meat Loaf’s 1977 “Bat Out of Hell” (more than 43 million albums sold worldwide) and 1993’s “Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell” (five and six times platinum in the UK and US) has forever trafficked in a boldly theatrical brand of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content