The thing about Tuesdays With Morrie isn’t in any surprises it might offer – we all know Morrie is going to be dead by the end of its rather short 80 minutes – it is in the journey to that conclusion. And what a lovely little journey it was in this Pacific Theatre season opener.
Based on Mitch Albom’s hugely popular 1997 book of the same name, Tuesdays With Morrie is the sweetly sentimental tale of Morrie Schwartz’ losing battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Having become good friends during college years, Morrie as teacher and Mitch as student, the friendship ends as Mitch graduates and moves on to begin his life. Sixteen years later, the two are reunited as Mitch learns that Morrie is dying and for the rest of the play we eavesdrop on their weekly visits during Morrie’s final months.
There is a wondeful connection between Ken Hildebrandt (Mitch) and Glen Pinchin (Morrie), especially during their weekly conversations. Both are masters of the pause with Hildebrandt managing wonderful phrasing when he is simply engaged in talking with Morrie. There is a leisurely pace that runs through the entire show, unhurried as if death can wait and kudos to director Carissa Boynton and her actors in not being afraid of silence.
Ken Hildebrandt and Glen Pinchin in the Pacific Theatre / Gallery 7 production of Tuesdays With Morrie. Photo by Ron Reid.
John Bessette’s representative set of Morrie’s home in Waltham, Massachusetts works well although I can’t help but think there may have been more power in less, emphasizing Morrie’s philosophy on worldly possessions. Lighting designer Joanne Abraham lights everything in soft, muted tones eliciting a beautiful feeling of light before the darkness as Morrie slips into death. Bruce Havery’s sound design provides some nice underscoring to some of the action, although at times it did seem to overpower the actors on the small Pacific Theatre space.
Much like the last time I saw Tuesdays With Morrie I never quite got to the point of full-on tears, but my fundamental admiration for Morrie’s story, and this production, remains the same: some of us may have walked away with a smile on our faces, while others cried, but we all walked away knowing that indeed “death is not a dirty word”.
Tuesdays With Morrie
By Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom. Directed by Carissa Boynton. A Pacific Theatre / Gallery 7 Theatre production. On stage at Pacific Theatre through September 24, 2011. Visit http://www.pacifictheatre.org for tickets and information.