Teachers. Some of them impact lives forever.
Such is the case in Tuesdays With Morrie, by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom, now at South Park Theatre.
Based on Albom's book of the same name, the play tells the story of Mitch, a college student, and his favorite professor, Morrie Schwartz. Morrie influences Mitch during his undergraduate years, but it's only years later does the dying professor have a truly profound effect on his student.
Hatcher and Albom's script is alternately moving and clunky. Particularly awkward is the handling of Mitch's wife, Janine. Although she is present for a scene, the playwrights neither show her nor let her speak. At one point, she does sing. It is understandable that Hatcher and Albom wanted their script to focus on the two men, but the handling of the wife seems out of step with the rest of the text.
Despite the script glitches, Stephen Santa directs a tight production that is both funny and moving. The production shifts emotional gears quite seamlessly.
Greg Caridi plays Mitch, and Bill Bennett is Morrie. Both actors have graced the stages of many Pittsburgh area theaters, and their experience shows in Tuesdays With Morrie. Bennett had a slow start on opening night, but both he and Caridi turn in charming and emotional performances. Caridi and Bennett convincingly capture their characters' transformations, emotional and physical.
Caridi also serves double duty as stage crew, making all of the scene changes that occur within the production.
The set, by Adrienne Fischer, is beautiful, dominated by a large tree. Symbolically throughout the production, leaves fall from the tree. It is a lovely effect. Unfortunately, the way the light cues are timed — unless you are looking for it — this is easy to miss.
Otherwise, however, lighting designer Jen James has complemented Fischer's set nicely. The use of color is particularly good.
This is a delightful production, sure to charm audiences.