reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

It has been many years since I last read Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom’s exceptional account of his days visiting his old professor Morrie Schwartz during the man’s final months of life. The book was highly regarded and resulted in an Emmy award winning TV movie in 1999, as well as the 2002 play by Mr. Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher.

Of course, the play presents the noteworthy outlooks of Albom’s old professor, who is dying of ALS, in a rather more immediate way than the book could. Two of my favorite IRT actors, Ryan Artzberger and Henry Woronicz, take the roles of Albom and Morrie, respectively. Both are excellent in their turns, taking Albom’s memories and transforming them into solidly built portrayals of the men and their meetings.

Artzberger accomplishes Albom’s progression from cynical student to coldly successful journalist and on into humanistic advocate through a series of noteably measured steps. As he becomes dutifully bound to his dying teacher, we note that many of the changes suggested by Morrie’s ideas appear in his personality.

Morrie Schwartz (on left, played by Henry Woronicz) and Mitch Albom (Ryan Artzberger) became friends as professor/student at Brandeis University in the late 70’s.

Woronicz also portrays changes, far more severe. Morrie’s path from highly regarded sociology professor, through diagnosis and surrender to his ACL disease, is well marked and effective. It is often painful to watch the actor portray the demise of the man as he loses function and ability. Through it all, Morrie’s high regard for finishing a meaningful life, and his dedication to teaching “to the last” are the triumphant aspects of his being.

Director Benjamin Hanna organizes the action, with assists from scenic designer Ryan Koharchic, costume designs by Guy Clark, plus Xavier Pierce and Melanie Chen Cole, who provided designs for lighting and sound, respectively. The venture leans toward a simplistic approach and results in a very telegenic production, perfectly captured by a crew from local PBS station – WFYI.

Tuesdays with Morrie explores themes of loving, living and dying in a humanistic way.

Bottomline: It is remarkably meaningful to revisit the ideas and thoughts put forth by the piece, especially as a seasoned septuagenarian, which is my circumstance. Morrie’s uncomplicated ideas about living, loving and, finally, dying are strongly conveyed. IRT’s presentation of this virtual play, with an eye on continuance of their mission to entertain and educate in meaningful ways, is perfectly placed in these times.

Tickets to stream Tuesdays with Morrie are available by going to Indiana Repertory Theatre (irtlive.com) and clicking the BUY NOW button on the opening web page. The show will be available through February 21st.

  • – photos by Zach Rosing
  • – artwork by Kyle Ragsdale