Tuesdays with Morrie Review – The End is the Beginning

TJ McNeill and Larry Eisenberg in TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE - Photo by Doug Engalla

It seems fitting that The Group Rep would present TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE on the twenty-third anniversary of its publication. According to famed author Mitch Albom, it was almost a miracle that the book even found a publisher – and it took a year for it to reach the top of the bestseller lists, largely by word of mouth. Today, TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE is considered one of the best-selling memoirs ever published – which just goes to show that a gem will attract an audience, no matter what. Together with Jeffrey Hatcher, Albom adapted the powerful novel into the equally powerful stage play currently produced by GRT. Due to COVID 19, this is a streamed production.

Larry Eisenberg – Photo by Doug Engalla

TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE tells the tale of Morrie Schwartz (Larry Eisenberg), a university professor struck by ALS in later life, and his long-term relationship with Mitch Albom (TJ McNeill). From 1979, when Mitch first met Morrie in a freshman university class which he almost dropped, to 16 years after his college graduation, the two men develop a deep bond which makes each man the richer for it. At first, the young Mitch moves on with his life sans Morrie – even after his empty promise to “stay in touch.” That is, until a chance glance at a television screen where Morrie was being interviewed on Nightline 16 years later. Thus was his friendship with Morrie rekindled, and the duo met every Tuesday until his old mentor’s physical abilities gradually declined and he finally died. At first glance, the story would seem filled with sadness and hopelessness – and yet Albom has managed to breathe life into Morrie, a truly funny, full-of-life person with an irrepressible joie de vivre which even a terminal illness could not alter.

TJ McNeill and Larry Eisenberg – Photo by Doug Engalla

Eisenberg and McNeill do a splendid job of weaving compassion, humor, and love into this tale of two men sharing their lives at a time of crisis. Perhaps even more intensely powerful in this time of pandemic, TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE follows two individuals who are so different – and yet manage to connect as one “gives to live” and the other learns and grows. Morrie clearly states his goal: “I will live for as long as I have left.” The play is imbued with its fair share of chuckles, sometimes mingled with tears.

TJ McNeill and Larry Eisenberg – Photo by Doug Engalla

Also impressive was GRT’s ability to adapt a play written for a stage performance into a streamed platform. In fact, the two actors only complaint about being streamed was the necessity to rehearse via Zoom. Ultimately, it may also be that streaming enhanced the sense of intimacy inherent in the story. With minimal staging – probably not mandatory in describing the internal lives to two individuals – TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE draws the audience in with charm and strength. We all end up feeling like “flies on the wall” observing these potent events. Of course, most of the audience will have experienced love and loss – again an especially compelling and even haunting message at this moment in time.

TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE made its streaming debut on Friday, August 14, 2020, with a limited run through Sunday August 30, 2020. There was a live talk-back with Mitch Albom, the cast, and the director and producer on August 18 which can be accessed free online. For information and tickets, call The Group Rep at 818-763-5990 or go online.   

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