“Tuesdays with Morrie,” a Royal Palm Players production
• Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17 at 8 p.m., 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Nov. 18
• Crowninshield Community House, located on Banyan Street East (2nd St.).
• Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the door.
BY MARY COLE - Time is the great equalizer. We all have 24 hours in a day, and we never know when our time will be up. How we live our lives and use the time we have – how we approach love, compassion, work, aging, responsibility, family, forgiveness, and death—define who we are.
“Tuesdays with Morrie,” playing at the Crowninshield Community House on Banyan Street November 15 through 18, challenges audience members to consider what to do with the time they have and asks, “Where are you going? Are you trying to be as human as you can be?”
Funny, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking, “Tuesdays with Morrie” is based on the 1997 book by Mitch Albom, which chronicles his weekly conversations with Morris Schwartz, Albom’s former mentor and sociology teacher. Schwartz’s counsel to Albom had been to follow his dream of becoming a musician, but soon Albom left that dream—and Schwartz—behind in favor of a busy and financially successful career as a journalist.
When Albom happened to see Schwarz on Nightline talking about death as he faced Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), he looked up his old teacher. Initially a gesture of kindness. Albom’s visits eventually became a gift from the dying man to his former student, a chance to reconnect with the youthful idealism the younger man had left behind and to learn the important lessons of life he had forgotten. The play, adapted by Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher from Albom’s book, shows Mitch (Terry Seitz) and Morrie (Nick Nichols) as they navigate their way to their separate destinations—Morrie to death and Mitch back to the personal humanity and meaning he had left behind.
As Mitch, Terry Seitz brings a boyish enthusiasm—quick, incredulous responses, an energetic spring in his step—to the role. Sixteen years past his university days, Seitz’s Mitch retains in his physicality the lively enthusiasm of the boy Mitch thought he’d left behind in the wake of his relentless pursuit of money and success.
Seitz’s face struggles to retain its certainty and its tenuous grip on control as guilt, incredulity, resistance, regret, grief, and finally enlightenment engulf him. The spring gradually leaves his step as he learns to slow down, to move from the idea that “you have to hustle, hustle to make sure you stay on top” to the realization that life must be more than that.
Seitz’s robust physicality is in stark contrast to Morrie’s (Nick Nichols) slowly decaying body. When we first see him, Morrie is dancing the tango, and we watch as death first claims his feet, then his legs, his hands, his neck, and finally his breath. Throughout, he retains his irreverent and determined humor about what death is doing to his body. Facing death and a mutinying body, he has more life in him than his screwed-down student has seen in 16 years.
More and more limited in his ability to use of one of the actor’s primary tools, his body, Nichols spends much of the play acting only from the neck up. Just when you think no more about the progression of the disease can be conveyed, Nichols’ neck becomes too weak to hold his head erect, and his labored breathing subtly increases. However, even as his body freezes in place, Nichols continues to communicate Morrie’s robust internal energy through the glint in his eyes, the flash of his smile, the quick quip of an agile mind.
“Where are you going?” is Morrie’s first question to Mitch. A question for us as well.
Ably directed by Gary Blomberg, with light and sound by Alex Newberry, “Tuesdays with Morrie” runs a brisk 76 minutes.
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