Wednesday, December 31, 2014
2014 was another wonderful year for the theater in Delaware! I was excited that a Delaware-based theater company, in this case the Wilmington Drama League (WDL), was producing the coming of age show, 13, The Musical. I had taken my nephew to see the musical on Broadway about five years ago and I thought, "what a fantastic show to introduce young teens to the theater!" The WDL's production was highlighted by the rousing performances of its young cast members. The production was such a success that it was transferred to a professional theater company in Pennsylvania!
I was floored by Kathleen Pirkl Tague's performance in The University of Delaware's Resident Ensemble Players' production of Margaret Edson's play Wit. Tague perfectly captured the emotions and struggles a person goes through while not just fighting, but coming to terms with advanced stage cancer. This play doesn't just land on my top for 2014, but my top for the decade!
I always love spending a summer evening outside watching a performance and the Delaware Shakespeare Festival's exhilarating production of Hamlet did not disappoint. Sipping wine while watching one of the Bard's best tragedies with a great friend made for delightful summer evening. From the stellar cast to the amazing set, the production was absolutely mesmerizing!
It was a great treat to see two veteran TV actors (Michael Learned and Daniel Davis) star in A.R. Gurney's sentimental two-character play Love Letters at The Delaware Theatre Company (DTC). I hadn't seen the play since I was in high school when Colleen Dewhurst and E.G. Marshall portrayed the parts at The DuPont Theatre, then The Playhouse. The DTC production immediately reminded me why I fell in love with this charming play so many years ago about a relationship between two people over the course of their lives.
I look forward to seeing more great theater in 2015!
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
University of Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players’ production of Margaret Edson’s tour-de-force play, Wit. If Kathleen Pirkl Tague — who portrays the plays central character Vivian Bearing, Ph.D. — would answer, I hope she would say, "I accomplished greatness." Because, under the superb direction of Sanford Robbins, Ms. Tague gives one of the best, if not the best, performances I have seen this theater season.
Vivian, a well-respected, 50-year-old university professor of 17th Century poetry, is diagnosed with stage-four metastatic ovarian cancer at the beginning of the 100-minute play. Once she receives the diagnosis, her intellect takes over and she begins analyzing each term spoken by her doctor (Harvey Kelekian, M.D. played by Lee E. Ernst) and researching the disease. Vivian is a strong-willed, independent person, and through flashbacks we see her match wits with everyone — from her father when she was a child to her college professor when she was a young lady to the present with her oncologist and his clinical fellow (Jason Posner, M.D., played by Michael Gotch). Posner also happens to be one of her former students.
Vivian’s parents are deceased and she never married or had children. Her marriage is to her career, which leaves her without any human support while enduring an experimental chemotherapy treatment. However, she does develop a friendship with an unlikely person — her nurse (Susie Monahan, R.N., B.S.N., played by Jasmine Bracey) — who doesn’t know anything about poetry, but does know about being kind and respecting her patient’s wishes.
Wit doesn't promise its audience a happy ending; it doesn't sugarcoat the struggles of battling cancer. It’s a rough play, but the playwright managed to weave a great deal of humor into her text. The humor helps to alleviate the tension and sadness you feel as you follow the lead character on her dour journey.
Ms. Tague’s performance is astonishing. She creates this complex character, evolving from an in-control professor passionate about research to a person dependent on others and becoming the subject of her doctor’s research. She tires of being asked, “How do you feel today,” by her medical team. (She's dealing with cancer, how do they expect her to feel?) Her usual is“Fine.” However, she knows she’s not fine and there is only one outcome for her.
Mr. Gotch gives a stellar performance as Posner, who is uncomfortable having to examine his former professor, but is willing to go against her do not resuscitate wishes to continue researching the experimental treatment Vivian is receiving. Bracey’s character Susie stops Posner from resuscitating Vivian during one of the most traumatic scenes during the play. Ms Bracey is astounding as Susie. She and Mr. Gotch’s performances during the final scene are as intense as riding in a car when the brakes give out.
Don’t miss this production. It’s rare when you see such a satisfying, thought-provoking play that keeps your interest from beginning to end!
Wit plays at the Roselle Center for the Arts until May 10th. Visit www.rep.udel.edu or call 302.831.2204 for tickets.