“The Brightest Thing in the World”
Yale Repertory Theatre
Yale Repertory Theatre is currently presenting the world premiere play, “The Brightest Thing in the World,” which is an intelligent and absorbing new work. Written by Leah Nanako Winkler, this show starts out as a cute romantic comedy, of sorts, before turning to more serious subjects, such as drug addiction and rehabilitation. Director Margot Bordelon does an astute job of staging this production and she has elicited fantastic performances from her three member cast. And while “The Brightest Thing in the World” may need further work before moving on to another theater, the play is continually entertaining and it certainly holds your attention throughout. Yale Repertory Theatre can be congratulated for premiering “The Brightest Thing in the World” and the show is most highly recommended.
On Cat Raynor’s inviting set of a coffee shop, the audience first meets the characters Lane and Steph, excellently portrayed, respectively, by Katherine Romans and Michele Selene Ang. Lane works at the coffee shop and the opening series of scenes show Steph coming to the coffee shop every day and, eventually, the two young women form a growing connection. One of the real pluses of this play is that the playwright is not afraid to present her characters fully, flaws and all. Without revealing too much, “The Brightest Thing in the World” unfolds slowly and believably as a rather endearing romantic story, in which both Lane and Steph are attracted to each other and begin a budding relationship.
Katherine Romans is wonderful as Lane and, in reference to the title of the play, she is certainly a bright light in the world. Michele Selene Ang is just as strong as Steph, though her personality is more tightly wound and it takes a little more time before she is able to make a connection with Lane. Indeed, one can’t help rooting for these two characters to get together. “The Brightest Thing in the World” runs about ninety minutes, without an intermission, and, after this initial lightness, the show gradually becomes more sobering and disturbing. Such topics as heroin addiction and usage are presented in this show and the playwright has done an extremely detailed job of showing all the facets of a drug addict. I doubt that I have ever seen a play in which drugs, and how they play a part in a person’s everyday life, have been presented so matter-of-factly and are completely normalized. All of this makes this show all the more heartrending.
In more of a supporting role, there is also Della, Lane’s older sister, terrifically played by Megan Hill. Hill definitely injects a great deal of comedy and levity into the play, and the way that the three characters interact with each other is fascinating. “The Brightest Thing in the World” takes on heaviness and sadness, but Winkler keeps the play consistently buoyant and one truly becomes attached to these three women. From beginning to end, this show feels authentic and truthful and director Margot Bordelon guides this work expertly and with a great deal of humanity.
Bordelon also does a great job with her design team. The fine scenic design encompasses more than just the coffee shop and eventually presents outdoor settings, as well as the home where Lane and Della live. The costumes by Travis Chinick really help develop and carve out each of the character’s personalities and the lighting design by Graham Zellers is extremely effective, especially when revealing a gorgeous, starry night. “The Brightest Thing in the World” at Yale Repertory Theatre is a consistently absorbing play and, in this first class production, shines a light of its own into the characters’ world and into some subjects that can be intense and frightening. And, while not flawless, this play is certainly worth seeing in its world premiere presentation and one hopes that “The Brightest Thing in the World” has its own bright future beyond Yale Repertory Theatre.
“The Brightest Thing in the World” runs through December 17, 2022, at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, CT. For tickets and more information, please visit www.yalerep.org.
Photo: Katherine Romans and Michele Selene Ang
Photo by Joan Marcus