Presented by Reverie Theatre
Once You’ve Found It is an expressionistic, visceral depiction of a man’s struggle with depression. Created and performed by Donovan Jackson, this show intrigued me from the start and pulled me deeper and deeper into its kaleidoscopic internal landscape.
Jackson portrays Bruce, a young man obsessed with art at a young age. After the death of his grandmother—the sole person with which he has any proper connection—he retreats into himself. He tells us about his tangible, real world experiences, and attempts to describe how he feels. The darkness that envelopes him, though, isn’t something he can fully articulate.
It is through inventive stagecraft that Jackson lets us into Bruce’s awful state of mind. With a pair of LED flashlights—one warm, one cool—he snaps between a cheerful optimism and brooding pessimism. In a black, tentacled mask, he personifies the depression itself—an amorphous, malevolent presence.
Jackson’s work here reminds me of David Lynch, capturing that resonant, unsettling abstraction that triggers intuition. He conjures depression as a malignant entity, existing within yet feeling like an external reality. There is a lot to unpack in this creature’s jealousy of Bruce’s potential love interest—a man named Sam.
As a caring person, and a symbol of hope, Sam is a threat. The persistent sense of alienation, hopelessness and doubt are almost a comfort. Hope can let you down, but the barren truth of depression is reliable, inevitable, all-encompassing. At least, it needs its vessel to believe that.
Jackson’s use of projections is quite eerie; your eyes strain to make them out on the flat black backdrop. I assume, in other venues, a more traditional white screen is used, but this effect is appropriately discomfiting. His use of fabric and movement adds another evocative layer.
The relevance of the 50s television commercials featured early on is not immediately apparent, though—like the rest of this intricately textured work—it does invite us to interpret and contextualize. I imagine it could relate to the false promises that constantly bombard us.
The final statement, though simple, means everything. Jackson doesn’t offer a guarantee of Bruce’s freedom from torment, but he does capture the exhilarating empowerment of healing intention.
Conceptually and emotionally, Once You’ve Found It is stunning theatre.