Dancing girls and cowboys remind us how the west was won.
photo by Tim Fuller
Claire Marie Mannle goes over her lengthy list of brilliant things.

Has life lost its sense of wonder?

Have those sweet surprises stopped coming along when you least expect them?

Now you can stimulate your own world of possibility by watching "Every Brilliant Thing" being performed by Claire Marie Mannle at the Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre through Feb. 24.

The subject of this one-person play by Duncan Macmillan is suicide, but the deeper subject is hope.

If you saw this play last September, performed by Steve Wood and directed by Sabian Trout at Live Theatre Workshop, see this production, too. This one, directed by Michelle Milne, feels completely different.

Not because the gender change of actors makes any difference. It doesn't. But because Milne and Mannle are completely different artists, expressing themselves in their own personal way.

The character with no name still feels stymied by many aspects of life, still keeps a lengthy list of every brilliant thing and still includes lots of audience participation.

The audience is seated in the round at Scoundrel & Scamp, so if you are feeling a bit shy, sit in the back rows. Some people in the back rows do get picked, but your odds of not getting picked are better.

In the center of that circle, Mannle is walking, running, bouncing and sometimes standing or kneeling perfectly still, creating a sensitive rendition of life itself. We in the audience watch the forces of Good vs. Evil battle for her soul -- just like each of us experiences every day in real life.

Chronologically, Mannle begins her story at age 7, when her mom ties to commit suicide. The child feels rejected...and responsible. So she tries to give her mom lots of reasons to live, by beginning to compile her list of 1,000 brilliant things.

Blessed with the boundless energy of childhood, the list grows quickly. When you are seven or eight, there are so many reasons to live.

The arrival of adolescence creates more stress. Then high school and the first year of college. Her mom remains a remote figure. Her dad tries to be the sensitive, caring one as well as be the father.

The  older she gets the more important that list becomes. Falling in love and getting married doesn't turn out to be what she expected. Then she begins to fear that suicide might be "contagious."

For us, sitting in the audience, announcing each new item (she doesn't name 1,000) is a reminder that even the most uncertain life can contain many moments of genuine happiness.

The most important thing, insists the playwright, is to keep stringing together all the good parts...and getting more paper to keep that list going.

"Every Brilliant Thing" runs through Feb. 24, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, at the Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre, 738 N. Fifth Ave. at the Historic Y.

Tickets are $28, with discounts available. For details and reservations, 448-3300. or visit scoundrelandscamp.org

Length is about 75 minutes, without intermission.