Written by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom
Directed by L. Flint Esquerra
Starring Larry Eisenberg (Morrie) and TJ McNeill (Mitch)
Online only from August 14 through August 30. https://thegrouprep.com
“Tuesdays With Morrie” was a hugely successful book by American author Mitch Albom about a series of visits Albom made to his former sociology professor Morrie Schwartz, as Schwartz gradually dies of ALS.
The book was adapted by Albom and the playwright Jeffery Hatcher and ran to great acclaim on Broadway, winning multiple awards. Since then there have been many revivals and a movie with Jack Lemmon and Hank Azaria. It’s a tragic story made poignant and funny and meaningful by Albom’s obvious and deep love and respect for his former professor and his need to show him his profound presence in his life.
It’s an interesting pick for an online play, especially given why we are all still only able to take part in public performances at a digital distance at the moment, for fear of a deadly disease. The irony of this however only seems to add gravitas to this artful and ambitious production.
The performances are purposeful and sensitive, finely crafted and yet still realistic and vulnerable. These two actors seem to have a connection that transcends the difficulties of this meagre genre – the online play – and we are very fortunate that they do. Oh how I miss live performances. If I’m honest, the thought of sitting through a play, with all the measure and importance of this, without the ability to actually be there in the room where is happens as if where, is a bit grim.
But the good folks at The Group Rep have created something magical for us. L Flint Esquerra directs with compassion a beautifully written play with roles most actors would give their right arm for. The themes are of love, gratitude and the fortune of knowing when someone is important enough, when they changed your life enough, that you would change yours for them when they needed you the most…and you consider it a privilege. These are big themes, timely themes, themes that are brutally required.
Larry Eisenberg as Morrie is wonderful. Funny, thoughtful, believable and riveting to the end. TJ McNeill as Mitch is his perfect foil. Sweet, conflicted, heartbroken and truthful.
Together they allow us into their characters,and the very private and personal time together as they tenderly unfold this truly brilliant play.
I highly recommend “Tuesdays With Morrie” produced by the Group Rep. It’s online, so it will feel different. But since we have all exhausted Netflix and the like, give this a chance will you? Theatres are struggling to survive, actors are bereft without the promise of performing. So at least, for the time being, we can all help each other out. Support your local NoHo theatres, their fabulous actors, directors and producers, and spend a couple of hours pretending you are actually there. Darken the room, snuggle on the sofa, unwrap your sweeties before curtain up and believe!!!!
The play has a limited run through August 30. There is a free streamed talk-back with Mitch Albom, director L. Flint Esquerra, and cast members Larry Eisenberg and TJ McNeill, hosted by the Artistic Director of the Group Rep Doug Haverty available at https://www.facebook.com/TheGroupRep A Pay-Per-View Show Pass is $20. To buy a pass and for information please visit www.thegrouprep.com or call (818) 763-5990.