.Everybody Dies

When one asks a theater artist what they love about theater, they’ll get something akin to “No one else sees what that audience gets to see.” While that’s more or less true of all shows, Everybody, Left Edge Theatre’s latest production at The California through Feb. 24, takes that concept to the extreme.

Obie-winning/Pulitzer Prize-finalist playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ take on the traditional 15th-century morality play Everyman, the show follows the titular Everybody on a journey to find life’s meaning that is sad, horrifying and darn funny.

The play starts with our host (a well-grounded Khalid Shayota), who might be God, sending Death (Bonnie Jean Shelton) out to stalk the audience, looking for people to take on that final journey. Death finds Dana Hunt, Lindsay John, Sam Minnifield, Allie Nordby and Caitlin Strom-Martin. Pulling her victims onstage, Death hurries off to exchange one fabulous costume (by Serena Elize Flores) for another while our host assigns roles with such designators as Friendship, Cousin, Kinship and Stuff, as well as a couple of others.

Yes, the roles are assigned to the actors every night by lottery. Yes, the actors have to know the lines for all five roles. No, they don’t know who they will be playing beforehand.

Therein lies the biggest issue with reviewing this play. The premise guarantees that every performance will be radically different, so to say, “this actor’s portrayal of…” or “this moment was…” won’t necessarily be true for the next performance.

On opening night, the role of Everybody fell to Nordby, who did a fabulous job with the difficult role. Also notable by their hilariousness were Lindsay John’s Cousin and Sam Minnifield’s Stuff.

Rounding out the troupe are the really well-cast Lulu Thompsxn, Lexi Lawson/Indiana Atchley and understudy Neil Thollander.

Production-wise, director and lighting/set/sound designer Skylar Evans leaves the set a little dark at times, making some moments harder to follow than they might have otherwise been. Also, there’s lip-syncing that didn’t quite work, being more distracting than helpful to the storytelling

Regardless of these issues, the cast and Evans have done a great job of forming the strong ensemble necessary to even attempt a play like this.

Despite the name, this play is not going to appeal to everybody. With strong moments of avant-garde and performance art storytelling, it requires an audience to put aside their preconceived notions of what it is to watch a play.

If one is up for such an adventure, this well-cast ensemble of talented actors won’t disappoint.

‘Everybody’ runs through Feb. 24 at The California Theatre, 528 7th St., Santa Rosa. Thur & Fri, 7:30pm; Sat, 1pm. $20–$29. 707.664.PLAY. leftedgetheatre.com.


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