Beautifully done is Seattle Rep's production of Tuesdays With Morrie—though for me, at least, its good intentions backfired. But before we get to that, a little recap: Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom collaborated on this adaptation of Albom's best-selling memoir, a tribute to the Brandeis professor who befriended and mentored him and with whom he rekindled his acquaintance just as Morrie was succumbing to Lou Gehrig's disease. As Albom, who gave up jazz piano for a hard-driven and well-compensated career as a sportswriter, Lorenzo Pisoni channels Peter Gallagher with a generous dash of Seinfeld (tone of voice, a few gestural mannerisms). Alvin Epstein's Morrie (a role he played in the play's 2002 off-Broadway premiere) lays on the puckish charm thickly—not too thickly, he's far too seasoned and shrewd an actor—and flavors it with a tiny bit of Ruth Gordon as Maude.
Tuesdays with Morrie Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., 206-443-2222, www.seattlerep.org. $10–$46. Various times Tues.–Sun., through May 7.
Since a whole bookful of Morrie's wit and wisdom has been boiled down to a very rich 90-minute (intermissionless) syrup, the message (basically, love and beauty yay, materialism boo) is naturally going to be a bit relentless. Maybe that's why the old preaching-to-the-choir issue bothered me more than usual. Rather than feeling uplifted by Morrie's free-spiritedness, the contagious, rejuvenating vitality of a life well lived, I was downcast. After having a truckload or two of life lessons dumped on my head, a line was crossed; I stopped enjoying these guys' very pleasant company, and I could only think, "Why are you bothering?" Who, of all the people who really need to hear these lessons, is going to bother seeing this play? Who, among the idiots and belligerents running this country, the exploiters and exploitees of religious us-vs.-them-ism, the stokers of 21st-century Americans' pathological sense of entitlement, is going to have any contact with what Morrie has to say? And if they did, how far would it sink in?
But this is just me. Go, have fun. And leave me here to stew in my pessimistic juices.