Death’s Wake-up Call
Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie at Playhouse II in Grand Bend is a superior production of this popular best-selling book. This two-hander (two character play) has been very popular in recent years, with many professional theatres and community groups staging it. I’ve had several opportunities to see it.
I can easily say that this current production is the best I’ve seen. It is very well done, with credit to Marti Maraden’s direction. Maraden is a Stratford Festival director, earning a solid reputation, which is evident here.
The story is based on Mitch Albom’s real life experience. Albom, a popular sports columnist with the Detroit Free Press, a TV personality and radio commentator, lives life in the fast lane. He’s all about advancing his career, making money, buying cars, with no time for a personal life.
The story flashes back to his days in university, where Morrie Schwartz is his favourite sociology professor. Years later, Mitch sees Morrie on TV doing an interview about his advancing ALS (Lou Gehrig ’s disease). Mitch, who hasn’t seen his beloved professor in 16 years, decides to go visit him. The visits become a routine; every Tuesday Mitch flies in. Mitch’s work life continues to be a never-ending rat race, so Morrie tries to teach Mitch to take time to enjoy the little things. Morrie’s condition deteriorates and he eventually dies.
Depressing? You bet. Throughout the theatre, you can hear women reaching for Kleenex in their handbags and men sniffling. There are poignant moments that seem unbearable.
The ending is supposed to uplift us, remind us that human relationships are the most important thing we have, remind us to take time to smell the roses. Sadly, that same message can also be an uncomfortable guilt trip.
Nevertheless, this is the best Tuesdays with Morrie that you could see. Ian Downie is a perfect Morrie, dancing with energy in the beginning, then visibly going through the horrors inflicted by ALS. You might feel as if you know Downie – he is one of the grumpy old men on the TD-Canada Trust bank commercials, regularly seen in different situations on TV and internet.
Jeffrey Wetsch plays Mitch Albom, at first showing his agitation, unable to actually sit through a visit with Morrie. But as Morrie grows sicker, Mitch grows with patience and understanding. Wetsch skillfully puts Mitch through the transformation, making it very believable.
I confess that I am not a fan of this play. I have cried these tears in real life situations: I don’t feel the need to go to the theatre for a cry. But if you are a fan of Mitch Albom, or have read and enjoyed the book, you will love this production. This is an excellent presentation of a very compelling story.
Tuesdays with Morrie continues with eight shows a week until July 13 at Huron Country Playhouse, Playhouse II, Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com
Tuesdays with Morrie
By Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom
Based on the book by Mitch Albom
Directed by Marti Maraden
Performed by Ian Downie and Jeffrey Wetsch
Playhouse II, Grand Bend
June 26 to July 13, 2013
Reviewed by Mary Alderson