By Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom
Based on the book by Mitch Albom
Directed by Genie Croft
Boca Raton Theater Guild
Willow Theater in Sugar Sand Park
Friendship Transcends the Grave
It is always immensely satisfying to see a superb book transformed into an excellent play. This is certainly the case with Boca Raton Theater Guild’s production of Tuesdays with Morrie. The book, describing journalist Mitch Albom’s highly personal experiences with his favorite, now dying, Brandeis University professor, was a 1997 best seller and a 1999 TV movie before becoming a 2001 play. Each version captures all the sensitivity, warmth and compassion of the original.
The story opens with the initial relationship between talented, charismatic professor Morrie Schwartz (Howard Elfman) and his highly receptive student, Mitch Albom (Wayne LaGette). During his four university years, Mitch takes every course Morrie offers, and when Mitch graduates, he pledges to keep in touch.
It doesn’t happen.
Sixteen years pass before Mitch learns that his former mentor now is the victim of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), with only a short time to live. Their touching reunion, which evolves into weekly Tuesday visits, resumes their roles — this time in a uniquely individualized class for one as they delve into the essentials of life.
The lessons are filled with pithy, wise and relevant quotes:
• A leaf grows colorful just before it dies.
• Without love, we’re like birds with broken wings
• Death ends a life, not a relationship.
• Accept who you are; and revel in it
• The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live
• Don’t let go too soon, but don’t hold on too long
And — my personal favorite: “The truth is, part of me is every age. I’m a three-year-old, I’m a five-year-old, I’m a thirty-seven-year-old, I’m a fifty-year-old. I’ve been through all of them, and I know what it’s like. I delight in being a child when it’s appropriate to be a child. I delight in being a wise old man when it’s appropriate to be a wise old man. Think of all I can be! I am every age, up to my own.”
Is the play sad? Of course it is, being about the premature and painful death of a remarkable man and teacher. Never mawkish, it is very beautiful and moving — a wonderful tale of personal bonding that transcends the grave.
Elfman and LaGette do justice to the text, skillfully handling characters that evolve as they grow into mirror images of each other.
Beverly Friend, Ph.D.
Boca Raton Theater Guild at Willow Theater at Sugar Sand Park, 300 S. Military Trail, Boca Raton, FL 33486, http://brtg.org, $28, 8 pm Thurs through Sat, 2 p.m. Sat and Sunday until March 15.. Run time 90 minutes without intermission.