Tuesdays with Morrie

[The following review ran in the Denver Post on Friday, April 6th.]

Little did successful sportswriter Mitch Albom realize, when he was channel-surfing one evening and ran across his old college professor, Morrie Schwartz, talking with Ted Koppel on "Nightline," that his life was going to be forever altered by his former mentor. But when he heard that Morrie was suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), Mitch decided to give him a call, which eventually led to a series of visits, a bestselling book, and this play.

Morrie, who taught sociology at Brandeis, was really a psychologist and philosopher at heart during a time (late '60's and early '70's) when a humanistic approach to these disciplines was coming to the fore in academia and among a generation that found itself torn apart by an imperialistic war in Vietnam.

(L to R) Scott McLean as Mitch and Roger L. Simon as Morrie
(L to R) Scott McLean as Mitch
and Roger L. Simon as Morrie
Photo by Sarah Roshan
In the current Miners Alley Playhouse production, local veteran Roger L. Simon slips easily into the homespun Yiddish-cum-Zen persona of Morrie, whose insightful questioning and off-the-cuff aphorisms go down like "Chicken Soup for the Soul." The details of Simon's voice work and physical indications naturally mark Morrie's gradual physical deterioration while maintaining his prescient instincts for teaching moments.

Caught up in the fast lane since he promised and failed to stay in touch with Morrie 16 years before, Mitch is tethered by his cell phone to his job and to his self-imposed role as the guy who never turns down an assignment. When Morrie first sees Mitch again and asks him why he is unhappy, Mitch defensively responds that everything is fine and that he's at the top of his game, the envy of his peers.

Operating as both narrator and actor, Scott McLean deftly handles the challenge of transitioning between the present-day Mitch, relaxed and breezy, as he fondly recalls Morrie, and the workaholic Mitch, running from his fears, supplanting his real needs with material possessions and the trappings of fame.

McLean's taut, edgy "old Mitch," coupled with the day-to-day countdown as Morrie's health deteriorates, drives the plot, while McLean's live piano accompaniment and reminiscences provide a number of delightful interludes.

Pegg and Simon have done their best in shaping the sometimes overly sentimental tribute to emphasize the universality of Mitch's issues and the wisdom of Morrie's observations, resulting in a heartwarming and relevant drama.

Miners Alley Playhouse's production of Tuesdays with Morrie runs through April 29th. 303-935-3044.

Bob Bows


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