June 29, 2006

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L.A. in Peterborough
James Whitmore and James Whitmore, Jr., return for Tuesdays with Morrie
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Death and love. Not things that two grown men necessarily chat about. Tuesdays with Morrie is Detroit sports writer Mitch Albom’s collection of conversations he had with his former professor, who was facing death from a degenerative disease. The Brandeis University alum hadn’t contacted Morrie for 16 years, until a Nightline program where Ted Koppel interviewed Morrie about facing death prompted Mitch to get on a plane to Boston.

This staging is unique because the actors portraying professor and student are father and son James Whitmore and James Whitmore Jr. Also, the play that Albom developed with playwright Jeffery Hatcher is more about how the book came to be – Albom started writing it to help Morrie pay his hospital bills.

Whitmore’s list of stage and screen accolades extends to the 1940s. One of his more recent roles was the librarian in The Shawshank Redemption. He’s performed in Peterborough for decades. The Whitmores performed together at Peterborough Players last year in Inherit the Wind.

The Wednesday opening had one moment of improv while Whitmore was getting the hang of driving a motorized chair around the stage. The scenery was sparse, starting with a black empty stage and piano. The set for Morrie’s home was simple and convincing as a West Newton, Mass., interior. Whitmore delivered with just a trace of Kennedy-style Boston accent, and Whitmore Jr. blamed problems on Logan airport. These factors reinforced the audience’s proximity to the events.

Whitmore’s Morrie had lightning-fast timing, while Whitmore Jr. set him up with a more contemplative pace. Whitmore did justice to his character’s profound comebacks, arguments and questions, teaching a former student who has substituted work for life. He gave a sense that the real Morrie was a larger than life, sensitive, sage, devoted teacher. Whitmore Jr.’s portrayal of anguish, guilt and discomfort was compelling, but it also seemed his job was very much as a supporting actor for his father. Whitmore’s portrayal of the progress of the ALS was frighteningly believable.

Morrie’s dying directives to love everyone, give of yourself, and know that survival requires human contact and companionship sound simplistic, like a concept either forgotten or given up on although the story is only 10 years old. But that’s from a twenty-something point of view. Maybe the gray-haired audience thought differently.

Tuesdays with Morrie continues at Peterborough Players, 55 Hadley Road, in Peterborough until Sunday, July 9. Tickets are $33 and $38 on Saturdays.


06/22/2006 Da Vinci to Rube Goldberg

06/15/2006 Peter Bridges remembered
06/08/2006 From Hairspray to monkeys
06/01/2006 Special Theatrics
05/25/2006 Live Brit-com
05/18/2006 Evil stepsisters earn the yuks
05/11/2006 A message to mom
05/04/2006 Meet the cast
04/27/2006 'I hope i get it'
04/20/2006 Find yourself in Yonkers
04/13/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
04/06/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
03/30/2006 Cabaret is Mnchester bound
03/23/2006 A 42nd Street detour
03/16/2006 Actor-director wants your ideas
02/23/2006 Yellow Taxi's Theater Festival opens March 1
02/16/2006 Herding CATS
02/09/2006 An actors' studio
02/02/2006 A thing about love
01/26/2006 Spring theater season warming up
01/19/2006 Gearing up for the big night
01/12/2006 This Phantom is not a menace
01/05/2006 Jim Kelly, sci-fi writer and alternate historian
10th anniversary at Capitol Center
10 Ways To Survive The Audition
A Chorus Line
A Figaro Worth Cheering
A 'Living Newspaper' on stage
A tale of two wives
A Tribute To Music
Actorsingers Deliver On Superstar
Beauty and the Beast
Bedford Off-Broadway Gets Spooky
Being The Beatles, 1964 The Tribute
Bringing NYC to Wilton
Creating the venue from antiques
Crimes Of The Heart
Curtain to rise on Dana Center
Dana Center Takes Center Stage
Ensemble elevates Palace’s Godspell
From stage to the silver screen
Great play, too bad it’s over
Greater Tuna
Humble Boy
It’s cabaret, hear it sing, joke, tease
It's Child's Play
Jesus Christ Superstar
Kids Tackle Edgar Allan Poe
Local boy hits the big time, doesn’t lose his head
Lowell theater opens with a winner of a satire
Madco welcomes Boston actor-director
Meet John Sefel, Director
Meet Suzanne Delle, Yellow Taxi’s driver
Music Man to run three weekends
New Thalian Players
Palace announces 2005-06 season
Peterborough Players’ Solidarity is solid gold
Plaid
Plaid (II)
Playing with man’s best friend
Proud of the Peacock
Racy, crazy blast at the Palace
Reviving His Passion
Robert Dionne, The man behind the Majestic
Rosemary Dann
Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know
Short-Attention Span Theater
Side Show
Sideshow slips sideways
Spending The Summer On Stage
Stages of learning
Steel Magnolias
Suessical: The Musical
Theater Of The Imagination
Theater Kids Without A School
Theater in the park draws big
The Drawer Boy
The Festival
The Five best shows of 2005
The Prisoner Of Second Avenue
The Russian/American Kids Circus
The Senator Wore Pantyhose
The Tony Awards, they're grrrrreat
The Warmth Of The Cold
Three nights, three shows at the Palace
Tosca

Under the Caribbean with the little mermaid

Wake up to ‘night Mother