‘Tuesdays With Morrie’ at Gaithersburg Arts Barn by Amanda Gunther


Everyone knows they’re going to die, but no one believes it. But when faced with the end of the journey so close at hand you start to reevaluate just how you’ve lived your life and whether or not you did so fully. The Gaithersburg Arts Barn presents Tuesdays With Morrie, a heartwarming, moving drama that explores the humanity of dying from both the perspective of those living and those that are much closer to death. A touching story that will reach the hearts of everyone who see it, this production is a true lesson in life that leaves the audience pondering deeply.

Craig Miller (Morrie) and Paul Morella (Mitch Albom). Photo by Daniel Mansfield.

Craig Miller (Morrie) and Paul Morella (Mitch Albom). Photo by Daniel Mansfield.

A drama based on the autobiographical book by Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie brings actors Paul Morella and Craig Miller together for this Washington area premier; telling the story of a man whose life is slowly unraveling and how that man’s life profoundly effects the other. Working collaboratively with an almost verbatim transfer of the book both Morella and Miller highlight the production with the firm reality in which Albom writes, making the story a shared collective of experiences between the pair.

While anyone familiar with the story knows that the character of Morrie is slowly dying, Craig Miller’s progression from being a normal healthy man to barely able to breathe is still absolutely stunning even to those of us who know it’s coming. Miller is introduced as a virile energetic man, dancing in his own fashion all around the stage in the very beginning, making his decline that much more dramatic. His physicality in regards to what he slowly loses is never wavering and follows a perfect progression, eating away at his ability to sit up on his own and other basic functions little by little. Miller’s ability to maintain a vigorous internal energy despite his character’s physical decline is amazing.

Making the story as much for him as it is for Mitch, Miller has a captivating way of telling stories. At first he shares the narrating duty but as his character becomes more intricately involved in the story, a keen sense of nostalgic importance arises in his tales. He carries the harrowing fury of being helpless; this is echoed from time to time in his voice. These moments only punctuate his otherwise exuberant existence; every moment taken in stride as he realizes that the world stops for no man.

Counter-balancing the effervescence of the dying man is Paul Morella in the role of Mitch. As the story’s overall narrator, Morella presents the character in a two-fold light, first as a detached observer and then as the man caught in the middle of it. He presents at first as a normal man with hopes and dreams, goals and the perfect mentor-student relationship with Morrie, but incidents in life make him hardened; depriving him of his raw humanity and making him a hardened bitter man. Morella provides a diverse performance going from rigid and driven by money fame and power, to the most basic nature of man, raw and frightened and uncertain inside. He crafts the character of Mitch to be almost closed off to the world so that when he crumbles under the strain of his own inhumanity, finding truth in his life, it becomes that much more poignant and cathartic.

Together the pair make for a driving and compelling performance. Morella has priceless reactions to some of the more comedic moments that Miller has to offer; and Miller has impeccable comic timing for those less than serious moments that add a much-needed sense of levity to the production. The twosome have a natural chemistry that falls in step with one another as the play progresses, each filling in the pauses and gaps of the other’s existence in a way that just flows naturally. Miller’s perpetual positive outlook balances Morella’s negativity to perfection until that positivity finally rubs off.

Craig Miller (Morrie) and Paul Morella (Mitch Albom). Photo by Daniel Mansfield.

Craig Miller (Morrie) and Paul Morella (Mitch Albom). Photo by Daniel Mansfield.

This is one of the most compelling dramas that you can hope to see this year; a true story about life and how to live it, not just going through the motions. These two talented actors put a fresh perspective on the old notion that live shouldn’t be taken for granted because things can change without notice and life as you know it can be over just like that. It’s a gripping dose of reality that will bring tears to your eyes and make you want to go home and find the meaning in your life.

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, with no intermission.

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Tuesdays With Morrie plays through March 24, 2013 at The Gaithersburg Arts Barn — 311 Kent Square Road in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets call the box office at (301) 258-6394 or purchase them online.

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