Skip to content

Tuesdays with Morrie - at last

TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE by Mitch Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher
Granville Island Stage
Arts Club Theatre

VANCOUVER, B.C. - I remember with absolute clarity the most emotional moment I have ever experienced in the theatre. It was in the 2001 Vancouver Playhouse production of Margaret Edson's stunning play, “Wit”. Joy Coghill, played E.M. Ashford, 80 year old Professor Emerita of English Literature and Seana McKenna played Vivian Bearing, once Ashford's most brilliant student, now a 60 year old Professor of Seventeenth Century Poetry, totally dedicated to her work, socially isolated, and terminally ill with ovarian cancer.

From the moment Ashford compassionately cradled Vivian in her arms on the hospital bed to comfort her by reading a children's story about love and sanctuary, until the final moment of Vivian's death, the tears poured down my cheeks. It was the only time I have ever run out of tissues in a play or a film, and knowing the subject matter, I had stashed a very thick stack in my purse before I left home.

I don't believe the depth of my response was due to the fact that Vivian was dying or even at that time, the fact that she was specifically dying of cancer. It was the recognition that Vivian had led a life deprived of the essence of humanity, the love between one human being and another, whether parent, child, partner or friend. Here was this lonely isolated woman who had learned from her professor how to be a brilliant academic, and here was her teacher, recognizing that what she needed now above anything else was to be touched with love. As Morrie Schwartz quotes W.H. Auden to his pupil, Mitch, in Albom's book, Tuesday's with Morrie, “Love each other or perish”.

I felt something of the same emotion last night when I finally got to see Antony Holland (Morrie) and Warren Kimmel (Mitch) in the stage adaptation of Tuesdays with Morrie at the Granville Island Arts Club stage. In a way I am glad that I did not see this production at the beginning of the run because it felt to me that in the month that the play has been running, the interaction between Holland and Kimmel has become as real as the relationship between Mitch and Morrie told in the book.

Because this is the story of the last weeks of life of a dying man, it was with some trepidation that I had originally begun to read the book, yet strangely I felt little emotion when I first read it. Somehow the writing did not touch me. But seeing Morrie on stage gradually reawaken the humanity in Mitch was a powerfully emotional experience. Although the stack of tissues I brought with this time was not fully depleted, there were many moments that moved me to tears.

The acting by both men was superb, but this performance by Antony Holland will occupy a special place in my mental archives, alongside his performance as Lear in the 2002 Studio 58 production.