“Everybody” explores life, death and everything in between

Cast on continuous rotation for lottery role selection


Malik Cantú, Yuka Kawai, Josephine Cessna during rehearsal. Photo by Sequoia Good

Katherine Camarata, Lead Editor

All four quadrants of theatre seats held anticipatory audience members facing each other within the intimate setting of the Milo Smith Tower Theatre on the opening night of the production “Everybody” by the CWU Theatre Department. Purple light bathed the set made of stone structures eye-catchingly reflecting the light as a lively usher instructed viewers to turn off their phones.


“Everybody” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is a modern adaptation of the 15th century morality play “Everyman.” The intensity of the dialogues and monologues captivated the audience. On occasion, the entire theatre plunged into darkness as Everybody twisted and turned throughout life, death, dream and reality, wondering how to distinguish between these states.

Five roles were randomly selected from a lottery wheel on stage to add a touch of intrigue and challenge.

The play opened with the usher transforming into an illuminated God complete with deepened and robotic vocal effects played by Peter James. His booming voice expanded across the audience as it pondered the meaning of life, tormented over the audience’s laughter and said, “I need no eyes, I possess the vantage of Divinity … Perhaps I am speaking to noone, only myself.”

According to the director’s note, the play explores themes of what a life well-lived looks like and what the word “good” means to begin with. These life or death themes were presented through a lens of comedy and modern social dilemmas like gender and racism. 

Rollie said the playwright Jacob-Jenkins is a member of the Black and queer communities and flips historical scenarios around while asking the audience tough questions.

In Rollie’s view, the switching of actors between roles is a way of “destabilizing” ideas around identity. 

Rehearsals have been fun and kind of avant garde in some ways because we’ve had to track who has played which role in rehearsal,” Rollie said. “It’s improvisational, but also the actors who draw the roles know the whole script.”

House manager and assistant director Marcus Wolf said, “Each actor brings their own unique talent and skill and perspective to each character. Each show is basically watching an entirely different show.”

The director’s note ended thusly, “Before death we are equal, and perhaps understanding that might also help us be more understanding of others in life.”

The voice of Death who “fears no man” played by Shawn Mulligan thundered around the theatre as the character’s anger grabbed a hold of the audience during an evocative scene before Everybody’s journey.

Throughout Friday’s show, lead character “Everybody” played by Malik Cantú was on a journey to face death, accompanied by every good and bad deed they ever committed while trying to bring others along with them.

Friday was a special occasion in many ways for Cantú.

It was a pretty big deal for me today because today’s actually my birthday too,” Cantú said. ”To be able to play that role, it was just a lot of fun. It was definitely challenging, but I was really excited to jump into it.”

Jinx Willow, an audience member and senior in theatre studies, had attended the show twice by Friday. Rollie recommended viewing the show more than once to witness the varied nuances.

“Depending who is playing Everybody, the feeling you get is different,” Willow said. 

A stand-out moment included the character “Stuff” played by Julia Seligman wearing a giant cape covered in miscellaneous bright objects and gloves. Stuff said she couldn’t accompany Everybody into death, and the play harkened to ideas of emotional attachment to material items and how this distracts mankind. Their chemistry showed a soft understanding.

Everybody tried to convince characters like Cousin played by Seamus C. Smith, Kinship played by Mason Sallee and Friendship played by Yuka Kawai to join them on this quest, however Everybody ended up facing a lot alone.

A chilling and thrilling dance scene involved the cast circling around the set, executing choreography while wearing skeletal costumes.

At the end of Everybody’s existence, only one character remained alongside them as they ventured off upon their final voyage toward death.

Some roles were played by the same actors each night, as was the case with Cessna’s character Love. 

“My role, it was a little bit easier than some other roles, because I just had to know lines for myself for my character,” Cessna said. “Also, because everybody changes every night, I had to learn everybody’s mannerisms and their reactions.”

During the show, Cessna was planted in the audience to start. 

Cessna said, “Having an audience is really helpful because we get to feel that energy. Also, I’ve never had to climb over somebody to get into a small space, so it was more interactive than it has been previously.”

First year in theatre studies and audience member Valerie Barra recommended that other students see the show. 

“I really like the personifications of these abstract ideas like love, strength, time and how they were each made a character,” Barra said. “The main thing that I took away was that love sort of prevails and that’s one of the things that matters most in life.”

Rollie said she hopes students walk away from the show with an inquisitive spirit.

This play has such big questions for us all to consider,” Rollie said. “Like, how do we change this world? And how do we live in this world?”


“Everybody” showtimes

Dec. 1-3 @ 7:30 p.m. 

Dec. 4 @ 2 p.m.

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  • Shawn Mulligan having a moment at rehearsal. Photo by Sequoia Good

  • Assistant director Marcus Wolf and Director Emily Rollie dig into rehearsals. Photo by Sequoia Good

  • Mason Sallee, Seamus C. Smith, Julia Seligman, Yuka Kawai block a scene during rehearsal. Photo by Sequoia Good

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