Review by Kevin Worrall
When 30-something Mitch Albom hears a news broadcast about his former college teacher who is dying, he immediately drops everything in his life to go and visit him.
Directed by Conor Lucey, the play traces the relationship of the characters from their time as student/professor to Morrie’s dying day.
Eoin O’Sullivan, who plays Mitch, starts off as the wide-eyed college graduate, eager to move to New York and make it as a jazz player. He soon however, feels he needs to take a realistic approach, settling as a hard-shelled sports reporter.
Morrie (Seamus Whealan), is the wise-cracking, happy-go-lucky sociology professor. He insists on keeping in touch with all of his former pupils and seems to have a word of advice for anyone who crosses his path. He’s never had a hard shell. For Morrie, all of his feelings are as natural to him as a sneeze.
The men’s interactions mirror those of a father/son. Whilst Mitch is at times reluctant to open up emotionally to Morrie, or even stand close to him, it soon changes. We see him transform from the frowning, hunched over, phone obsessed robot, to a cheerful gentlemen who zips around the room when he greets Morrie.
Over the course of the play, the two men grow even more comfortable with each other. The play manages to tap into broad themes such as what the meaning of life could be, the importance of family, and how to love oneself, without crossing over into a carnival of emotion.
Whilst many audience members were still weeping, it never drives its message into hard.
It also doesn’t rely too much on props. Whilst the play’s use of sound and lighting is minimal, that’s not to say it’s non-existent.
Sound designer Andrew de Buitléir adds a flair of magic to the piece. For instance, one point of the play features the singing bodyless voice of Mitch’s wife. It’s gentle sound washes over the audience, reinforcing the idea that they didn’t need anything else about that moment to make it special.
Similarly, the lighting (arranged by Eoin Lennon) is done through poignantly simple moments – such as the flickering of a television set.
All of the elements come together to prove what really matters in this world is just being with your loved ones.
The play knows it doesn’t need a wide production to communicate the message. Instead, it lets the beauty of the words do the talking.