Make a date with Morrie at the Colonial

by Beacon Staff • October 26, 2005

The adaptation of Mitch Albom's bestseller, currently being performed at the Colonial Theatre, is entertaining and amusing, and also sweet and sad.,"The cover of the book Tuesdays With Morrie reads, "An old man, a young man and life's greatest lesson." The statement is simple, and so is its message. While the poster for the play of the same name does not display this phrase, the sentiment is there.

The adaptation of Mitch Albom's bestseller, currently being performed at the Colonial Theatre, is entertaining and amusing, and also sweet and sad. It is not political or religious, social or economic, but simply the story of two friends and how they change each other.

Albom first met Morrie Schwartz in college when Morrie was his teacher, mentor and friend. Albom took every class Morrie taught, and spent much of his free time in his office. At graduation, Morrie asks Mitch to promise to stay in touch.

Mitch, however, does not keep that promise. Instead, as he apologetically says to the audience: "Life happened."

It is 16 years later, when Mitch sees Morrie on Ted Koppel's "Nightline," that he learns his old teacher is dying of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease), and gets in touch with him.

By visiting with Morrie again, Mitch begins to rethink his life. A successful freelance sports journalist, he writes for at least five publications. His life is fast-paced and frantic, rushing from game to game and deadline to deadline.

Initially, he barely has the time to sit and talk with his professor for more than 20 minutes, and during the visit his cell phone rings on repeated occasions.

In a subsequent phone conversation, Morrie asks Mitch, "Are you at peace with your life? Are you trying to be as human as you can be?"

These questions, quickly shrugged off by Mitch in the beginning, continue to haunt him long after he leaves Morrie's house. He thinks of them later while working on various assignments on the job, and when considering his answers, quickly decides to return to Morrie for a second visit.

Mitch's conversations with Morrie span various topics. Happy to share his thoughts with his old student, Morrie explains his views on life, death, love and happiness.

His philosophies are charming and straightforward and their influence is soon apparent in Mitch's life. During another visit with Morrie, Mitch leaves his cell phone at home. He also hands an assignment down to another writer so he can spend more time with his old friend.

Morrie's story is uncomplicated but poignant, and the two-person cast of this play gives a heartfelt performance to tell the story. As Mitch, Dominic Fumusa provides depth and clarity to a character who could easily be stereotypical.

He communicates with the audience directly, often commenting on a scene that just occurred. His comedic timing is skillful and subtle, enabling the audience to laugh while still remembering the sadness of the story.

Harold Gould's Morrie is the mentor everyone wishes for. He is wise, witty and, above all, kind. There is a reason a book and play were written about this man, and Gould depicts the depths of the character with benevolence and gentility, performing as someone whose body is dying but whose spirit is determined to remain alive. Even though he spends the majority of the play lying in bed, Gould still delivers a powerful performance.

The role of Morrie requires Gould to realistically depict the anguish that ALS causes, and he accomplishes this task, portraying the struggle to walk, move and breathe with delicacy and respect.

When Morrie attempts to eat the egg salad that Mitch brings him, he puts forth a valiant attempt but fails miserably at this simple task. The scene is both painful and admirable, as he attempts to receive the gift that his friend brings him, despite his inability to eat.

The chemistry between the actors is also undeniable. These two characters grow to love and respect each other, and when Morrie tells Mitch, "If I had another son, I would have liked it to be you," the statement is believable and moving.

The message of Tuesdays With Morrie can be interpreted in many ways. Morrie's story is about friendship, love and respect, for life and for each other. He is happy to be alive, yet happy to die since he looks at death as an opportunity to discover more about living and to share what he has learned.

In a world of iPods, text messaging, high-speed Internet and fast food, Morrie's wisdom is especially poignant. After seeing the show, the audience may find itself wondering what Morrie's opinion of a situation or decision would be.

Commenting on Mitch's fast-paced lifestyle, Morrie tells him, "We're all running. We're in the human race. Some of us are running so damn fast we don't know where we're going."

The lessons from Tuesdays With Morrie give the audience reason to slow down and find direction.

Tuesdays With Morrie will be performed at the Colonial Theatre, 106 Boylston St., through Sunday, Oct. 30. Tickets are $25 to $65; however, student rush tickets can be purchased one hour prior to the show for $25 at the theater box office.

Morrie (Harold Gould, seated) teaches Mitch Albom (Dominic Fumusa) some valuable life lessons in Broadway in Boston's latest production, Tuesdays with Morrie.

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