The Brightest Thing in the World shines at The Den

Sat. March 23, 2024 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

The Brightest Thing in the World is a gem that shines in a powerful story about love and addiction.

The show at The Den Theatre is produced by About Face Theatre whose mission statement is about advancing LGBQT+ equity through performance and education. This dark endeavor accomplishes both thanks to fully realized queer characters that audiences can learn from.

Everyone has had some level of struggle with dependency and compulsion throughout their lives and Leah Nanako Winkler deftly writes about this important topic while weaving it into the storyline without being heavy-handed.

The plot revolves around two characters who meet in a Lexington, Kentucky coffee shop in 2016. A romance blooms between flower shop worker Steph and barista Lane where the duo embark on a lifelong adventure together. A third person comes with a family dynamic in the form of sister Della who is Lane's best friend and confidant as well.

Within the arc of the play, the three women depict a range of emotions taking place over several years that leave them forever changed.

Lane is lovable and brought to life by Claire Kaplan who adds much to the text on the page in a passionate portrayal. Kaplan knocks it out of the park during a special monologue describing her habits and the honesty she conveys is riveting.

Through open dialogue, hot topics are discussed between all three of the characters sometimes leads to conflicts. Try as she might Lane can't resist giving her sometimes controversial take on identity and politics. The setting in the South is a hotbed for these kinds of conversations that give weight and realness to these vibrant characters in the script.

Regional references from Kroger to Yankee Candle ring true, but accents were missing possibly to avoid stereotyping.

Jojo Brown doesn't always hit the mark as Steph but has some nice, fully realized moments while describing childbirth and acting intoxicated.

Cyd Blakewell is a standout as Della and brings an impressive resume to the table. The Actor's Equity Association member was most recently seen in Northlight Theatre's Birthday Candles. Not only is she genuinely funny on a Saturday Night Live level, but will tug at the audience's heartstrings at certain times.

Director Keira Fromm knows the peaks and valleys in a tale that leads with humor and then explores the heavier topics closer to the end.

There is no intermission and a bathroom break may mean not being able to reenter depending on timing so plan accordingly.

Some of the artsier transitions are not necessary to cut the time down, even though the vignettes were beautifully conveyed by the trio. The overhead globes used for lighting were a nice touch to make the scene changes smooth and unique.

The world premiere of The Brightest Thing in the World happened recently in 2022 and the production has an overall current feeling to it even when jumping through time.

This showcase rooted in recovery may trigger some viewers, but the obstacles are handled in a kind and sometimes humorous way that will resonate with many. Substance abuse resources are available in the program and free NARCAN was given out at the exit. Special events found at are also planned throughout the run with local experts covering themes in the play.