SHOWING : March 07, 2008 - March 15, 2008
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[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
Friday, March 14, 2008 ||
Are you at peace with your life? |
That is the constant refrain running through “Tuesday’s With Morrie,” based on the best-selling book by Mitch Albom, which, in turn, was based on a dialog on life and death Mr. Albom had with his dying College mentor, Morrie Schwartz.
Normally, I wouldn’t write a review of anything done by MVAA or by CSN, since I work so closely with them, and, in fact, am a contractor with Cobb County (which, basically, bankrolls MVAA). Yet, here I am, writing this. I am at peace with that.
Normally, I would hesitate to criticize any work by Sarah Mitchell, since we tend to get along like chalk and cheese - any criticism would be blown out of proportion (by both of us), any praise would be taken as sarcasm. Yet, here I am, saying, for the record, that this show and last year’s “Children of a Lesser God,” show that Ms. Mitchell is able to draw out professional-quality performances from her casts, has a firm grasp on staging and concepts, and is able to use the limited resources at the Cobb County Art Place to their best advantage. It also shows that her penchant for directing drama is as well-honed as her long-proven ability for directing farce. (And I’m not being glib or sarcastic here.) Strangely, I am also at peace with that.
Normally, I would hesitate to criticize another lighting designer at the Art Place, because any criticism can be taken as sour grapes on shows for which I didn’t “get the gig.” And, here I am, stomping all over Jeff Costello’s design with my judgment boots - angles out of synch with moods, specials missing their targets, cues too-late too-slow too-fast too-not-how-I-would-have-done-them. Yet, the strongest image in the production was the result of the light design (a second act warm front light on Morrie, cool side light on Mitch to underscore Mitch’s realization that “the end is near”). I am not at peace with my “stomping,” but I am at peace with my praise.
Normally, I would want to pounce on the script with my cynical English-Major checklist, sentiment too “on-the-sleeve,” philosophy too glib and “Dr. Phil-good,” characterization too idealized. And, in fact, it is why I’ve strongly disliked this book and other popular treacle from Mr. Albom. Yet here, the strong performances by Jeffrey Bigger as Mitch and Bill Hajdu as Morrie made the sentimentality well-earned, the character interaction trump the glib philosophizing, the characterizations believable and appreciated. I am at peace with this reversal.
In fact, I am not the sort of Type A personality epitomized by the Mitch of this show. I am able to leave my job at the office, I am able to wallow in the joys and affections of my family, I am able to “smell the roses” when I indulge in my passion for theatre. But I am strangely not at peace with being at peace. When you are too much at peace, is this not a tacit admission that you’re done? Does not the making of goals, attainable or not, mutually exclude being at peace? Can you not say that it’s easy for Morrie to be at peace with life, even necessary, since that’s really all he has? And wouldn’t it be more dramatically fulfilling to show how how Mitch’s drive and some sort of peace are not mutually exclusive?
Perhaps so, perhaps not. It’s certainly a discussion that may be started by this show, but not answered. It is even a discussion that may be out-of-place in any overview of this play.
For, in the final analysis, Morrie Schwartz is right. We are all dying a little bit every day, and we never know (or most of us never know), when that end may surprise us.
And, being at peace, even a bit, goes a long way to enjoying the simple pleasures of a friend, a joke, a pretty smile from a little girl, or a good cry when seeing a production such as this, performed with conviction and honesty.
And I really am at peace with that.
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
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| || Correction by Dedalus|
| Just to correct a comment I made in passing above, Cobb County does not, in point of fact, "Bankroll MVAA." The Arts Alliance of a group of volunteers who support the mission of Cobb County's Art Place facility, and, in fact, raise their support from donations and other fund-raising activities. (It could, in fact, be said, that MVAA helps bankroll Cobb County's facility.) I do apologize to my friends and colleagues at MVAA for any misunderstanding I may have caused.|
For the record, I had nothing personally to do with this production, though my wife did run sound for it. And, of course, it could (and should) be said that the reason "I'm not at peace with my 'Stomping'" on the lighting, is that, for any show I do, it's quite easy to find similar cues that are "too-late too-slow too-fast too-not-how-Anyone-Else-would-have-done-them."
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by Elton John (music), Tim Rice (lyrics), and Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls, David Henry Hwang (book)
Atlanta Lyric Theatre