Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie
By Mitch Albom. The Queanbeyan City Council. The Q Theatre. Directed by Liz Bradley. 3 – 15 March 2015.

Only incorrigible cynics will fail to be moved by this lovely production of Tuesdays With Morrie. Most will be familiar with the story—a successful sports journalist makes weekly visits to his former sociology professor as the older man slowly succumbs to motor neuron disease. The audience is taken through the process of watching someone loved and respected with a terminal illness—an event we all experience but avoid thinking about.

Tuesdays with Morrie isn’t just Morrie’s “life lessons”. Those are not new (and could be superficially described through aphorisms such as carpe diem, love is all, and live each day as if it were your last), and to an extent you can’t learn these through watching a play. It’s more about the relationship between these two men and the experience of losing that relationship through death.

Director Liz Bradley and team have chosen a simple setting and a gentle, natural pace which allows the script and action to shine. Every aspect of the production works together to convey an uncomplex nostalgic tenderness, from the mellow jazz soundrack to the understated set. Graham Robertson as Morrie and Dave Evans as Mitch, both well known to ACT region theatre goers, play with great warmth. Although Morrie is physically slowed by his disease, his mind is unaffected and his quick Jewish wit keeps the pace steadily rolling along.

Dave Evans' Mitch has great comic timing and emotional range as you would expect from such a polished performer, but here it’s Graham Robertson who stands out. Robertson captures Morrie’s affection for his former student which drives him to reach out to the younger man, whom he believes has compromised himself to chase a higher salary. Robertson’s Morrie is needy, forgiving, loving and despairing but pragmatic, determined to maintain dignity as he slides into increasing disability and towards his inevitable death. His physical deterioration is convincing, from being able to walk to bed bound and unable to lift his head. That said, the horrors of Lou Ghering’s disease are not overplayed so it’s not at all distressing to watch. Those who have lost a relative to a degenerative disease may find the show triggers memories but also find it cathartic.

It may be a cliché to say so, but Tuesdays with Morrie is equally heartbreaking and uplifting. Park your cynicism at the door, have a good weep, and come out appreciating life.

Cathy Bannister

Images: Dave Evans and Graham Roberston. Photographer: Andrew Sadow.

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