Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie, Northlight Theatre. Dying people make me tense. I had some bad experiences in that vein when I was younger, and I adapted a little strangely, so that now the prospect of witnessing someone's slow physical disintegration no longer fills me with sadness or pain. Just low-grade panic. I start tapping my foot, checking my watch. Real life or make-believe, I want it over.
Mitch Albom's Tuesdays With Morrie is built around someone's slow physical disintegration. This is the play based on Albom's best-selling memoir about bonding with his former professor, Morrie Schwartz, as Schwartz succumbed to Lou Gehrig's disease. We see Schwartz go from dancing imp to sentient rag doll--unable even to turn his head--before finally giving up the ghost. You should've seen my foot tap.
The play bothered me not only because it triggered my phobia but for its own sake. I reacted against certain cheesy appeals for sympathy, such as when Schwartz tries and fails to eat a forkful of his beloved egg salad. And I was astonished by the boom-generation narcissism that allows Albom to treat Schwartz's illness as if staged for Albom's benefit. Still, if you have the patience for death, this show has its bittersweet, often humorous, occasionally insightful rewards. Gracefully staged, it features a strong performance by Tracy Letts as Albom and a delightful one by Mike Nussbaum as Schwartz. Nussbaum made this a show I loved to hate to watch.