Everybody Reaction

The play “Everybody” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is a modern update of the original morality play “Everyman”. It was interesting how just enough modern themes(the changing of goods to stuff, Mentions of recent events and technology) were used to make the play seem original but at the same time retain just enough of the original “Everyman” story to not become something else entirely.

A notable change from the original play would be the removal of most of the religious context. When confronted with the existence of God most of the characters in the play reply with “God is real?” and everybody is not searching for someone to help her improve her standing with God the search is more for a companion so she does not die alone. Everybody does not meet Confession as everyman does. Instead of being forced to confess and being whipped afterwards everybody instead is given a literal dressing down and is humiliated by Love a concept completely absent from “Everyman”. In a way this works far better in this retelling of the story then a whipping would have as it would have been more than a little strange for the play which to this point had been fairly light-hearted to suddenly take such a violent turn and the audience still gets the message that everybody is being punished.

Interestingly the biggest change would be the in the final lesson that the audience learns at the end. In “Everyman” the moral turns out to be that everyone will be alone when they are judged after their death. “Everybody” on the other hand took the circuitous route of having the audience at first sympathize with everybody by painting characters such as friendship, kinship and stuff as cowardly and selfish before revealing everybody as the most selfish of all at the end and pleading to the audience to be better people. This honestly felt like the weakest part of the play as no real way to avoid everybody’s fate is really possible. For all the good a person can do in life the unfortunate truth is that at the very end people will be alone barring the existence of a world beyond the one we exist on.


This entry was posted in 4. Reactions, comments, analysis: "Everybody" by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (March 12 at the Signature Theatre). Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Everybody Reaction

  1. Esther Allen says:

    Your comparison to the original medieval play is very astute; indeed, the modernized version does not dwell on punishment, which is the original play’s central motif.

    Your memory of the ending of the play we saw is very different from mine — makes me curious to see it again! I remember Everybody being judged quite harshly earlier on, but that judgment softens as Love comes to accompany her to the grave. This is the difference between seeing a live play and watching something on video: you can’t go back and replay it to see what really happened.

Leave a Reply