Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Right to Be Forgotten

The Cast
Photo by DJ Corey
Everybody, the season opener for the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington and the first production overseen by new Artistic Director Simon Godwin, is bound to be controversial. It comes across as precious and sometimes ponderous, and one audience member asked, in full voice during the performance, "What the hell is this about?"

In Everybody, playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has reinvented the 15th-century morality play Everyman for a modern audience. Like the original work, it's an allegory that follows one representative human being coming to terms with the impending arrival of Death (personified by the unflappable Nancy Robinette).

But not only has Jacobs-Jenkins brought the language and attitude of this medieval play into the 21st century, he has also found an ingenious way to show the universality of the story: five of the actors (Alina Collins Maldonado, Avi Roque, Kelli Simpkins, Ayana Workman, Elan Zafir) are credited as "Somebodies," and they don't know until they're onstage which roles each will play as determined by a lottery. At this performance, Zafir played the title character.

Director Will Davis kicks things off with Yonatan Gebeyehu as a theater usher presenting the most amusing pre-show speech one could imagine. (Then Gebeyehu turns into God.) After a brief history of the play and the selection of actors and roles, the action begins on Arnulfo Maldonado's austere white set as Death confronts Everybody, who begins searching for a friend who will accompany him into eternity. He visits Friendship, relatives Kinship and Cousin, and Stuff (material goods), each encounter illuminated in a different color by lighting designer Barbara Samuels. Time (Clare Carys O'Connell, age 9) and Love (Ahmad Kamal) also appear.

Balloons serve as a visual and spiritual touchstone for the performance as ephemeral objects, easily burst, thus analogous to human lives. Still, despite a cast admirably prepared to appear in 120 different configurations of roles and a run time of only 90 minutes, the play slogs rather than soaring.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
October 15th - November 17th, 2019
By Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Usher/God/Understanding: Yonatan Gebeyehu
Death: Nancy Robinette
Somebodies: Alina Collins Maldonado, Avi Roque, Kelli Simpkins, Ayana Workman, Elan Zafir
Girl/Time: Clare Carys O'Connell
Love: Ahmad Kamal
Directed by Will Davis
Harman Center for the Arts, Lansburgh Theatre
450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or