1979, Mitch Albom hits university. Like so many of us, he’s just trying to keep his head down. His life changes when he steps into the classroom of Professor Morrie Schwartz, a man who won’t let him hide away and who quickly becomes a good friend and mentor. As Mitch says, he takes every class Morrie offers. Once he graduates, Mitch moves on, as we all do, and falls out of touch despite a promise not to. The next time Mitch crosses paths with Morrie, it’s after Morrie’s been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Morrie’s disease comes with a terminal prognosis but the lifelong teacher’s greatest lessons are still to be taught.
So… if I just tell you to go see this show, is that enough?
Tuedays with Morrie is a true story with script based on Mitch Albom’s memoir detailing his experiences with Professor Shwartz. It’s a deeply inspirational story about Morrie’s decision not to retreat into death and suffering and instead to finish out the rest of his life as he’s spent it until now; being giving of himself, his spirit, and his wisdom. In that spirit, in Mitch’s journey to explore his own life, in the lessons Morrie has to teach us all, Tuesdays with Morrie is a heartfelt, moving, and meaningful piece of theatre. (Important: While never feeling preachy.)
David Whitely (Mitch Albom) and Tom Charlebois (Morrie Schwartz) are in finest form here under John P. Kelly’s direction. My favourite work from both.
Playing a man with the enlightened openness of Morrie Schwartz is undoubtedly a treat for Tom Charlebois but it also comes with the unenviable task of playing the progression of a debilitating illness that tears down his body over the course of the play. I’ve not personally witnessed the effects of ALS but I had zero trouble believing Charlebois’s portrayal.
As for David Whitely…. Death is a hard thing to deal with for anybody. Watching somebody you love die up close, slowly, is one of the more unimaginably hard things a person can go through. Facing not only loss but your own rationalizations and deflections and fears and guilt, all while denying the signs of frailty (as in Mitch’s continuing to bring Morrie food with each visit not noticing that Morrie hasn’t indulged in weeks). And seeing the person you love, through growing frailty and dependence, maintain a spirit and liveliness, and loving them for that — making the coming loss both easier at the same time as it makes it harder.
I never once doubted David Whitely’s embodiment and sincerity in being Mitch Albom going through this journey.
There was a lot in Tuesdays with Morrie that hit very close to home for me. While Mitch and Morrie’s journey was entirely unique to anybody else who faces similar circumstances, yet at the same time, there’s so much in it that is universal. There’s so much to take away from both Mitch’s inevitable inward look at his life and Morrie’s openness and desire to help not only Mitch but all comers find acceptance and happiness in their own lives.
Whitely and Charlebois, Mitch and Morrie, convey both sides incredibly successfully here, and in doing so impart great wisdom and emotion upon their audiences. It is a show, not about death in the end, but about life, about living, about love, and about being.
Couple this strong material, acting, and direction with it being a fantastically designed show – between the staging, sound, lights, et al – and Tuesdays With Morrie is shortlisted with the best shows I’ve seen not just at the Gladstone, but anywhere.
To close us off, the big things I look for in entertaining theatre is to care, to be made to feel. While my situation might be different than many, Tuesdays With Morrie is the first piece of theatre that’s made me cry. So there’s that.
If you miss Tuesdays with Morrie, you’re doing yourself a dissservice.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Did Tuedays With Morrie give you the feels? Had you read the books or seen Morrie’s interviews on Nightline? Join the discussion and let me know in the comments below.
Tuesdays with Morrie runs now through March 19th at the Gladstone Theatre. Full info: http://thegladstone.ca/tuesdays-with-morrie.html