I think we have all attended a play or musical performance that failed to meet expectations. We clapped half-heartedly and were anxious to be on our way. But alas, a less discerning member of the audience stood for an ovation and slowly… ever so slowly… person by person (lone sheep by lone sheep) more people joined in. I HATE THAT!
And so this past weekend watching Tuesdays with Morrie on-stage at the histori Jones Theater, I was thrilled to leap from my seat and join the audience in an instantaneous, collective, electrically-charged standing ovation. The audience response was a tidal wave of enthusiasm.
If you read Mitch Albom‘s memoir Tuesdays with Morrie, you are going to love the play and the players. You’ve heard the buzz and the word-on-the street. You cannot miss this production. If you haven’t seen the play yet, you can still attend Friday or Saturday, July 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. The final performance will be Sunday, July 23 at 2 p.m.
Under the able direction of Scott Chapmann, Tom (Frosty) Frostman plays Morrie, a retired professor who is in the final stages of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Riley Capp plays Mitch, one of Morrie’s former students who is a driven, renowned, sports columnist. Nearly 20 years have passed since Mitch was Morrie’s student, but on hearing of his mentor’s illness, Mitch reconnects with Morrie where, over fourteen visits, Mitch learns as much about living as he does about death.
If this sounds grim and depressing, I promise you that it is not. In the opening scene, Morrie is dancing. His moves are external manifestations of an internal lust for life. He may be dying, but he is complete. In contrast, Morrie’s former student is healthy, successful and incomplete.
I don’t have the script in front of me, but I have my copy of Mitch Albom’s memoir at my side. Without the author’s permission, I’ll share a short passage. The passage is short, but the summation tells all. Mitch asks Morrie, how he would spend his day if he had only 24 hours left before death:
“I’d get up in the morning, do my exercises, have a lovely breakfast of sweet rolls and tea, go for a swim, then have my friends come over for a nice lunch. I’d have them come one or two at a time so we could talk about their families, their issues, talk about how much we mean to each other.
“Then I’d like to go for a walk, in the garden with some trees, watch their colors, watch the birds, take in the nature that I haven’t seen in so long now.
“In the evening, we’d all go together to a restaurant with some great pasta, maybe some duck – I love duck – and then we’d dance the rest of the night. I’d dance with all the wonderful dance partners out there, until I was exhausted. And then I’d go home and have a deep, wonderful sleep.”
Mitch wonders how Morrie, after being paralyzed for so long, could find such pleasure in such an average day. And then Mitch writes, “Then I realized this was the whole point.”
On a more personal note, I am always delighted when synchronicity comes into play. Just last week, before seeing the play or re-reading Mitch Albom’s memoir, I completed an assignment for Shavano Poets. Our task was to channel the work of U.K. artist Tom Phillips who layers his poems on top of artwork and imported text. Apparently, Morrie and I were already on the dance floor.