A group of children and adults stand center stage in celebratory poses, with paper chains hung over the stage.
Gather at Filament Theatre Credit: Willow James

Pronoia: the belief that the universe is conspiring in your favor. After two years away, Filament Theatre is back with an original production that brings this hopeful and expansive feeling to its audience in delightful and authentic ways. While the 60-minute Gather was written by Julia Lederer and Julie Ritchey (directed by Ritchey), the play was created in collaboration with more than 150 young people and adult artists. Filament has thoughtfully integrated its “youth collaborators” into its creative process over the years, and in this production delivers a nuanced meditation on COVID-19 and the loneliness we’re all still shaking off. Gather is the story of a town stuck in a snowstorm, how people coped with the cloudy feelings that followed, and how two friends helped everyone reconnect.

Through 3/27: Sat-Sun 11 AM and 2:30 PM, Filament Theatre, 4041 N. Milwaukee, filamenttheatre.org, $25-$45 per “cottage” (each cottage seats family groups up to five people).

The best parts are the inventive ways we’re invited to use our imagination. For example, the town’s main street is a piece of string, the library denoted by a book, the restaurant by a kitchen utensil, etc. From there, the audience is welcomed to participate in crafting the story, whether it’s making sound effects or reading the weather forecast (and the “feelings forecast”). Actors Christopher Acevedo and Erika Wilson are kind collaborators and well attuned to young people’s comfort levels, meeting them where they were (both physically and with script shifts) on the afternoon I attended. My favorite image was a young girl at the cottage next to mine, furiously pretend scribbling in a prop book with a quill pen throughout the show. If Gather was the inspiration for her future memoirs, I think that’s a win.