Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of Vietgone
Hatch and Albom's adaption does a decent job distilling the book to a 90-minute stage piece. Just as the original was a huge best seller and continues to sell briskly 20 years later, the play has great potential to move an audience. It particularly speaks to me because of my own experience visiting an isolated older man in my community, plus the setting of the play is the town I grew up in.
Mike Herring nicely captures the irascibility of Morrie Schwartz and then shows us the downward spiral. Bradley Keville inhabits the cold, somewhat success driven side of Mitch Albom, but never quite lives inside the character when the emotional walls slowly begin to crumble. Both of these performances are more than good enough to open up the inherent truths that Mitch begins to understand through his visits with Morrie.
The script has potential to become static, and director Pam Wiley doesn't completely avoid the traps. Every speech in which Mitch speaks directly to the audience has Mr. Keville standing in exactly the same spot with the same lighting. Also, the scenes between the two in the living room never develop any physical momentum, except early on when Morrie demonstrates his version of dancing. Still, Wiley coaches good performances from her actors. Ralph Nurmela's set seems cobbled together from pieces of other productions, a bit of a hodge podge. Costume design by Suzie Sajec seem to be pulled from each actor's personal wardrobe and work reasonably well.
There is real universality in Tuesdays with Morrie, no matter what form in which you encounter it. That is why I believe people will be reading the book and seeing this play 100 years from now and more. Manatee Players and A Life Story Foundation offer a moving experience, one enhancing the other.
Tuesdays with Morrie, through October 27, 2019, at Manatee Center for the Performing Arts, 502 3rd Ave W., Bradenton FL. For tickets and information, call 941-748-0111 or visit manateeplayers.com.