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Tuesdays With Morrie

Dan Butler and Stephen Jones in Tuesdays With Morrie. Image uncredited. **** It’s often said the film is never as good as the book. Which is very much the case with Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie. The 1999 film version, staring Jack Lemmon and Hank Azaria, of Albom’s 1997 all time, best selling memoir no way near as good. Yet when it comes to the 2002 play, it often proves better than the book. Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation bringing to life the immediacy of its characters relationship. Most notably the sociology professor Morrie Schwartz. An elderly Jewish man whose body is breaking down and betraying him due to motor neurone disease, but whose mind and memory are sharper than ever. Spending every Tuesday with former student and once aspiring musician Mitch, now a successful sports writer whose life is endless stress and who hasn’t contacted Morrie in sixteen years. Reaching out to reconnect after seeing a TV special where he learned Morrie is dying. Watching him decline into death with calm and dignity as Morrie imparts lessons on how to live and die before finally departing. A show about dying might not sound like a barrel of laughs, but there’s a rich vein of humour coursing though Tuesdays With Morrie. The Jewish, Rabbi styled humour popularised by the likes of Jackie Mason. An irreverent mix of worldly insight and secular spirituality, with a head nod towards the divine just in case. Taking the edge off any maudlin self pity, and, as a result, pulling some of its emotional punches. But it’s an understandable trade off as Tuesdays With Morrie is not about dying a death but of living it. Warts and all. We may not see the embarrassments, but we hear of them and see other discomforts. Indignity not ignored, but not what defines. Rather it’s the realisation that we only go around once and none of us get out alive, so love, live and forgive with all you have in you. Accept that you need others. Sometimes completely, like a newborn child. And others need you. Living is always giving. Dan Butler and Stephen Jones in Tuesdays With Morrie. Image uncredited. If it sounds like a Hallmark sentimental sugar rush, there’s a fair bit of emotional manipulation at play. Hatcher and Albom’s true life story laden with recurring phrases and gestures like extra credits that push your buttons. But not so many as to cause emotional cavities, with performances restraining at the edge of excessiveness. Dan Butler’s wise old sage imparting wisdom never subscribing to the notion of victim. Butler charming and compelling as a man who doesn’t rage against the dying of the light so much as calmly fade into it with dignity and grace. Aided by his sidekick, Mitch. If Stephen Jones doesn’t always looking comfortable as a workaholic American sports writer his American accent is well done, though those familiar with Jones’s work might find it takes a moment to get used to. Yet Jones ensures the dynamics between the two men works wonderfully, understanding his role is to set Morrie up so he can take the swing, giving Butler lots to play with. Which Butler does with considerable ease and style, the whole eagerly paced by director Andy Arnold. An emotional conversation between two men, with dialogue sometimes directed towards the audience, in which nothing much happens and you know how it ends, Tuesdays With Morrie can make for a difficult sales pitch. Like the story of a man meeting an angel who shows him what his life might have been. In both cases their enduring, heartfelt, homespun wisdom captivates and continues to do so. For Irish audiences Tuesdays With Morrie will recall the much loved Charlie Bird who died of motor neurone disease in March this year. Morrie echoing Bird’s tireless love for others, Mitch his workaholic nature. Just another reason to enjoy Tuesdays With Morrie , a production designed  to give you all the feels. Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie , by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom, based on the book by Mitch Albom, presented by Breda Cash and Pat Moylan in association with The Gaiety Theatre, runs at The Gaiety Theatre until April 27. Touring to Everyman Theatre, Cork (30th April - May 2nd) and Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny (May 3rd) For more information visit The Gaiety Theatre or respective venues

Tuesdays With Morrie
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