MILWAUKEE - Acacia Theatre Company chose a different, smaller venue for the intimate play “Tuesdays with Morrie.” It was a wise choice. This play would not have worked well in the Concordia Auditorium.
Why is it that a story of a professor dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease and his reunion with a former student can touch the hearts of so many? Could it be the media boost provided by both Oprah Winfrey and Ted Koeppel? Or was it because the book was on the New York Times Best Sellers list for over four years?
Perhaps it is still a strong draw because 1) most people are afraid to die, and 2) we’ve all had at least one favorite teacher who has made a big impact on our lives.
Morrie Schwartz, a sociology professor at Brandeis University , and Mitch Albom, the eventual successful sports writer, made a significant connection during Mitch’s college years. He promised to keep in touch when he graduated. It took him 16 years to keep his word, but he eventually did, and therein rests the heart of the story.
If it hadn’t happened that Mitch, quite by chance, saw the interview of Morrie on Ted Koeppel’s “Nightline,” this pair might never have reunited. Mitch, out of a sense of guilt, decided to visit his old teacher, pay his respects, apologize and return to his own pursuits. But Morrie’s magnetism intervened, and a new plan evolved.
Mitch flew in from Detroit for 14 weeks, and we are the richer for listening in on their conversations. We witness Morrie becoming more and more incapacitated, and we watch Mitch becoming more and more human. Morrie is wise and courageous and funny. Mitch becomes less impatient, more empathetic, and less driven by schedules and competition. It is a fascinating and poignant transformation.
Morrie pushes Mitch toward more reflection, greater honesty and self-awareness. Mitch provides comfort and a clumsy but sincere caring. It is a beautiful interchange. Everyone should be so lucky to leave this world in such a safe, loving cocoon.
Drew Brhel was a wonderful, lovable Morrie; David Sapiro, a perfect counterpart as Mitch.
The only flaw I saw in the latter’s performance was in the final scene when it was difficult, at least on stage left where I was seated, to hear all of his words, and we didn’t want to miss any of them. His body language conveyed a lot, though, even without all the words that accompanied it.
I would strongly recommend this production directed by Elaine Wyler and performed in the cozy little theater on the lower level of St. Christopher’s Church, very close to the Good Hope Road exit off Interstate 43.
“Tuesdays with Morrie”
The drama runs through Nov. 24 at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, 7845 N. River Road, Milwaukee. Call Acacia Theatre at 414-744-5995 or visit www.AcaciaTheatre.com.