TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE at 2ND STORY THEATRE – One from the Heart
We could all use a little more Morrie.by Larry O'Brien, Broadwayworld.com
Either late last winter or early spring, 2nd Story theatre’s Artistic Director, Ed Shea, announced that he was looking for less cynicism and revamped the schedule. Out went SPEED THE PLOW and in came CATHOLIC SCHOOL GIRLS. In Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom’s adaptation of TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE (based Albom’s book), Shea has struck the mother lode of positivity. In this play (and in the book, and in life) Mitch (Jeff Del Sisto) a young, career-driven journalist learns of his former professor Morrie’s (Jay Burke) battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease and a one-time visit becomes a weekly pilgrimage and a graduate seminar on the meaning of life and death. The book has sold over fourteen million copies and been translated into fourteen languages. Cynical it is not. The question is, how does into translate onto the stage?
So what’s to like? First of all, Jay Burke. His Morrie is warm and fuzzy, knows his lines and doesn’t bump into the furniture; he has over thirty years acting experience, and it shows. His characterization of an old man facing death with humor and grace makes the play work. If your looking for the anti-cynic, how about this line. “Love is the only rational act.” Or, “Forgive everyone everything.” These would seem like pabulum if a real person in a real pickle had not said them.
Morrie is comfortable in his skin, and that comfort is reflected in his study, where the play is set. Max Ponticelli has created a very comfortable room for Morrie with an Eames chair, lots of windows, an enormous tree out one of those windows, and a wooden bench for company. Intruding on the beauty is a wheelchair and a walker-death and decay are also characters in the piece; it is the in-you-face manner these, both the equipment and the disease, are presented, which keeps the play from becoming overly sentimental.
Nevertheless, the play is worthwhile; in a harsh and cynical age, we could all use a little more Morrie.