Thursday, March 08, 2007

Review of "Tuesdays with Morrie" at People's Light, published in the News of Delaware County 2-28-07

Before the performance of “Tuesdays with Morrie” (adapted by Mitch Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher), the house manager informed the audience that this play garnered the most advance sales in People’s Light and Theater Company’s recent history. Like Albom’s highly successful book (11 million copies in print), tickets are going fast for his play, and People’s Light has already extended their run to accommodate such high demand.

But unless you go to the theater specifically to see good acting, don’t go see this play.

Indeed, the actors deserve a great deal of credit. Not only does Tuesday’s lack a recognizable plot (and in that sense, drama), or motivations, save a man looking to resolve a nagging mid-life crisis and a dying one struggling to remain a “teacher to the last,” but the whole affair is littered with monologues and dialogue so condensed into episodes (of their ‘conversations’) as to appear like a cartoon strip.

David Ingram (as Mitch Albom) and Robert Spencer (Morrie) struggled against all of this, helped along by Stephen Novelli’s unobtrusive direction. Yet their efforts only illustrate the problem: I know I went to the theater, to see a play, on the stage. But Tuesdays with Morrie is one of the most unnatural, affected plays I’ve ever seen.

An example: out of nowhere, Morrie suddenly exclaims, “Without love, we are birds with broken wings.” This is typical, as the whole of the dialogue unfolds inorganically, without logic, as if Albom and Hatcher wanted to take all the best elements of the conversations from the book and squeeze them into 90 minutes of stage time. In a sense, watching the episodes of this play felt like being led through an art exhibition. “Here is the dying man sharing wisdom,” witness also the “mid-life crisis of the man seeking words of meaning.” Moreover, these McNuggets of wisdom (“you are dying too, only slower”) are highly unsatisfying, particularly in this adaptation, where the (forced) question, “Are you trying to be as human as you can be?” seems anything but poignant.

But none of this stopped the play from having its intended effect upon the audience, many of who uttered assent to Morrie’s maudlin assertions and sat weeping in their chairs long after the applause ended.

I don’t actually mind the book, which, enjoyed in solitude may provoke the same, yet private, outpouring of emotions. Nor am I bothered by the more substantial plays in the theatrical canon capable of decimating an audience. Indeed, it’s an effect that draws many (including this author) to the theater.

But I think that this audience, and all those gobbling up these tickets, expected to go to the theater and be moved by an adaptation of a book they loved. In that, they certainly didn’t self-disappoint. However, looking around (uncomfortably), seeing well-dressed and otherwise dignified men and women, facial expressions crumbling under tears—over what anyone but Dr. Phil would rightly regard as an 8th grader’s experiment in melodrama—was a very undignified way to end one’s evening.

At the door on the way out, the ushers politely (obligingly) handed tissues to the patrons. If only on the way in they had offered blinders.

1 comment:

Neha Sharma said...

This book was suggested to me bya good friend, and I was eager to read it since quite sometime. but I was never into reading books
But one fine day ordered it from flipkart n got it in few days
The book teaches about life, anger issues etc
The book as ur reading it wil take u to the place makin u engrossed in it

The book keeps u engrossed
I finished reading the entire book in 6 hours
And the books has definitely made me better
The teaching in the book n the relationship of the writer n the his teacher in the book of the teacher's last days. Will literary make anyone nostalgic n take u to trip down memory lane