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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sunset Playhouse's Inspiring 'Tuesdays With Morrie'

Theater Review

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"The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live," sociology professor Morrie Schwartz, slowly dying of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), says to former student Mitch Albom.

Albom had reconnected with his favorite professor 16 years after graduation, and would meet with him on Tuesdays for weekly visits. Those visits became the mega best seller Tuesdays With Morrie, which then became a movie, and later a play, which opened at Sunset Playhouse last weekend.

Albom had promised to be in touch with his beloved professor after graduation. But, given the unrelenting demands of a career in sports journalism, the next work deadline became more important than a relationship. Like the journalist he is, Albom is less interpreter and more chronicler, taping all of his visits as Morrie's health inevitably declines.

Call the book or the movie maudlin. However, Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation—in collaboration with Albom—has brought out dramatic elements in yet another take on the meaning of life. In the capable hands of director Matt Daniels (often seen locally as an actor), Tuesdays With Morrie conveys some bits of inspirational wisdom along Albom's journey back to people and relationships. As Morrie, Don Devona sparkles in the role of the dying man, making the real-life Schwartz fully dimensional, be it in his up or down moments. Stephan Roselin has the harder job of Albom, playing off Morrie's one-liners while slowly unearthing his feelings and desire to reconnect. Roselin finds his comfort zone as the play progresses, and the two men give voice to the life-affirming messages within the play.

"Love is the only rational act," Morrie points out toward the end of his life. "Without love, we are like birds with broken wings."   And with love, we can heal and take flight again, as both men rediscover in Tuesdays With Morrie.

Tuesdays With Morrie
runs through April 3 at Sunset Playhouse, 800 Elm Grove Road, Elm Grove. For more information, call the box office at 262-782-4430 or visit www.sunsetplayhouse.com.