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.

photo by Creatista
Con (Samantha Severson, center) suffers for his art, watched by Sorn (Tony Caprile, left) and Dev (Tyler Gastelum).

Winding Road Theater Ensemble continues to rebuild its image on the Tucson art scene, turning heads by vigorously attacking difficult material.

Opening this weekend is the satirical head-spinner, "Stupid F***ing Bird," Aaron Posner's take on what can happen when you run Chekhov's "The Seagull" through a high-speed food processor designed by a clever college student who failed his course in East European literature.

Ardent fans of Chekhov might not appreciate this free-form filet of Russian soul, but no experience is necessary in knowing any of Chekhov's plot lines. The bottom line: "Stupid F***ing Bird" is fun, in a good way.

The play isn't really about Russian angst anyway. It is more about the angst of our own American actors and playwrights trying to find their way to fame in a culture that prizes celebrity without depth.

This is one of  those shows where anything can happen, and probably will. Whether or not you want to think at all, this 2 1/2-hour production will have you thinking -- about the nature of nature, the nature of reality and also the need for reality in a media-obsessed society that keeps asking "why can't I just believe what I want to believe?".

Even with that long running time, the hours zip by quickly, right from the opening scene when two actors can't stop arguing who is the most sad and miserable.

Without doubt, we are watching a Russian comedy at its most Chekhovian. Quickly it becomes clear we are at a rural dacha unlike any other.

Just briefly, "Bird" takes place in more modern times with some passing references to modern technology and pop culture. Just like "Seagull," the plot includes a play-within-a-play, a famous Moscow actress, a frustrated playwright, a young starlet eager to trade sex for success and -- of course -- a stage littered with broken hearts because everybody loves somebody else.

The plot also has actors talking directly to members of the audience, actors admitting they know they are on stage acting, and one woman playing a role that is traditionally played by a man.

That would be Samantha Severson playing Con, the frustrated playwright eager to suffer for his art. Nicely enough, Severson gives the role power and believability.

While there isn't a plot with a recognizable through-line, per se, there is a point: that creating all art is painful and seldom completely successful. Yet, the painful act of creating art is equally seductive and irresistible.

All the cast members are strong. There is haughty Emma (Jodi Ajanovic), the famous actress; Sorn (Tony Caprile) the clueless one; Nina (Liz Claire Feliciano) a conniving youth; Dev (Tyler Gastelum) who marries punk-ish, ukulele playing Mash (China Young); Trigorin (Richard Thompson), who is attracted to Emma.

Every scene has lots of moving parts, which this cast presents with admirable ensemble effort. And finally, flaunting its hipster insider-ness, please note there is ample use of the F-word, just like the show's title implies.

"Stupid F***ing Bird" continues through Feb. 17 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, (additional 2 p.m. matinees Feb. 9 and 16) in the Cabaret Space at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.

Tickets are $28, with discounts available. For details and reservations, 401-3626, or visit windingroadtheater.org