Saturday, April 22, 2006

Play: Good Cry

Tuesdays with Morrie by Jeffrey Hatcher & Mitch Albom, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Directed by David Esbjornson, April 8 - May 7, 2006.

So the curtains fall on the Seattle Rep's season with a weeper, a soft, sentimental, feel-good piece based on a nationally-known best-seller. The theatrical equivalent of a chick-flick, all about emotions and lessons learned.

And, blast it all, if I wasn't crying at the end, and rising with the rest of the house in a standing ovation.

OK, so I am not made of stone. Now you know.

Here's the short version - the play is based on the book Mitch Ablom wrote about his former mentor, Morrie Schwartz. Morrie was Mitch's favorite professor in college. Mitch grew up, grew away, lost touch, made the big time as a sports journalist. Morrie get ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and starts dying. Mitch gets back in touch, and through regular Tuesday get-togethers, learns to be less of a schmuck.

And Mitch, in the play, is a schmuck. Played by Lorenzo Pisoni, he's that 90's kind of success story, someone superficially successful through sheer activity but inwardly hollow. The good news is that the play gets into the whys and wherefores of his nature as it gets towards how he learns to be a better person. Though to be honest, a zen sensei would be breaking his zen sensei staff over his zen sensei knees over the length of Mitch's path to enlightenment.

And Morrie is that sensei, his death sentence from the disease pushing himself to reach out even more. Played by Alvin Epstein, Morrie is a character, and within moments of him arriving on the stage, you know this, and you're rooting for him. He's that lovable uncle, that kind mentor figure, that cool old guy that we all want to be someday. Epstein also doesn't stint on the debilitating nature of the disease, and that gives his common-sense wisdom and good nature the gravitas it needs to be less than mere sentimentality.

I don't think I've had a mentor of that type - non-blood relation, serious age difference. My main industry is relatively new, such that we were building our own tools as we went forward. Most of my generation of game designers were in the same age group, and are more of a band of brothers (and sisters) than mentor/students. But the Lovely Bride has this kind of relationship, a former English teacher, and early in the relationship (when we were in college), she was kind enough to share her. On the first meeting, she wanted to know about this new "Cyberpunk" sf. It's been good talking to her ever since (though it has been too long - she's taken to retiring to Florida for the winter when we're back in town for Thanksgiving).

So back to the play. Yep, it's sentimental. Yep, it plays on the heart strings. Yep, it has that self-improvement, feel-good nature that you connect with an afterschool special. But it works, and works well. And it was the first full-house standing ovation I've seen this season.

More later,