A man sits in a wheelchair for more than an hour, barely moving a muscle except for his eyes and mouth. Yet he gives the most spellbinding performance.
The audience collectively laughs, sniffs and wipes away a tear as they watch a once-vibrant professor succumb to a degenerative nerve disease.
Tuesdays With Morrie sounds like somber stuff, but Morrie’s descent into death proves the catalyst for his former student Mitch to finally seize his life. It could almost do the same for the audience, with Morrie sharing words of wisdom that make you question whether you are really living to the max, or just pottering your way along until death takes you.
Graham Hopkins makes a magnificent Morrie, all knitted tanks tops and salt and pepper beard, and a wonderful way with words that should turn his graduates into lifelong disciples.
Asher Stoltz plays Mitch Albom, the once go-getting student who settles for less than his talent could have made him, and lives a materialistic life with no time left to think about the paths he is automatically following.
Tuesdays with Morrie is a true story, co-authored by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom himself. Their book has been on The New York Times Bestseller List for more than 10 years with eight million copies sold.
The engrossing play tells the story in under 90 minutes, giving you laughs, sorrow and oodles of philosophy between the dynamic professor’s dancing debut and his paralysed demise.
Mitch sees Morrie being interviewed on TV 16 years after his graduation, and guilt, pity or perhaps curiosity make him pay a visit.
That turns into a weekly cross-country pilgrimage, and Mitch becomes a student again, this time learning lessons about life.
Albom is an accomplished journalist, and his skills as a wordsmith positively blaze in this script. There are some beautifully funny one-liners sandwiched between moving comments on life, death, love and sport. “Taking makes me feel like I am dying, giving makes me feel like I am living,” Morrie says.
Stoltz is equally brilliant as Mitch, talking to the audience to explain and defend his own life as he comes to realise how shallow the trappings of success now feel.
The pairing of Stoltz and Hopkins works brilliantly, both producing exhilarating performances that hold the audience enthralled. You leave not feeling sorry that you have watched the story of a death, but rather the story of a life well lived.
Tuesdays With Morrie runs at Sandton’s Old Mutual Theatre on the Square until October 2.