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Tuesdays with Morrie | Ensemble Theatre
Written by Augusta Supple   
Wednesday, 07 January 2009 20:59
Tuesdays with Morrie | Ensemble TheatreDaniel Mitchell & Glenn Hazeldine. Photos - Steve Lunam

It’s a pretty impressive achievement: over 11 million copies of “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom, exist world wide and it is currently the best-selling memoir of all time. So, not surprising that many of you may have read it: or have seen the book promoted on TV, (book-clubbed by Oprah)? Or perhaps the film starring Jack Lemmon and Hank Azaria (produced by Oprah)? And now, the stage production written by Mitch Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher, makes its Australian Premiere at the Ensemble Theatre.

I must confess I own a copy of Tuesdays with Morrie - a gift from a long lost colleague - which (I also must confess) has remained untouched for nine years on my bookshelf. So I write with the focus on this production with complete ignorance of the book, the film or the book club discussion: but whilst being aware that they do exist.

The story is very straightforward. Career focussed Mitch Albom (Glenn Hazeldine) reunites with his beloved college professor Morrie Schwartz (Daniel Mitchell) once he discovers Morrie is dying of Motor Neurone Disease (ALS/Lou Gerig’s Disease.) But as with lessons themselves, it’s the journey that matters the most. As both men discuss some of the most difficult and personal questions life has to offer: their relationship strengthens. Mitch is able to better understand the value of life through Morrie’s gradual decline, and re-evaluates his actions and his priorities up until that moment.

This production is beautifully directed by Mark Kilmurray and simply constructed. Elegant design from Brian Nickless and lighting from Peter Neufeld facilitate this neat and intimate duet. Sound designer Daryl Wallis incorporates a wonderful pastiche of soundscape and music to create tension within Mitch’s world.

The performances are beautifully subtle, beautifully balanced by Kilmurray. Daniel Mitchell provides a fun-loving and loveable Morrie, who is mentally lithe, physically helpless and utterly charming, whilst Glenn Hazeldine is an over-extended career-focussed Mitch. Hazeldine’s performance portrays a likeable man, living a demanding life. In the hands of a lesser actor, one could dismiss Mitch as a self-centred parasite, but in this case, Hazeldine has crafted a fine performance in which a believable transformation takes place. The pairing is both delicate and sincere, as Mitch begins to soften under the tutelage of Morrie, it is easy to understand their relationship and what it means to both of them.

It’s an opportune time to be running (at the beginning of 2009,) when reflection and resolutions are at the forefront of one’s mind, Tuesdays with Morrie is personal exploration at its most entertaining. It’s not action driven, not overly complex, not visually graphic: nor does it need to be… it is after all a dramatization of conversations between two men ruminating on the meaning of life, love and self.

If we are to embrace Morrie’s observation: "The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it." Conversely when the culture does make us feel good about ourselves we should buy it, and by that I mean: buy a ticket, take a friend (and a box of tissues) and start the year with an enriching experience. It definitely has inspired me to open that long-neglected book on my bookshelf.

Despite the inevitable ending and sobering personal examinations within, Ensemble Theatre’s production of Tuesdays with Morrie is a surprisingly funny and tender play… full of quick one liners and insightful banter, beautifully performed.


Ensemble Theatre
Tuesdays With Morrie
By Jeffrey Hatcher & Mitch Albom
By arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd on behalf of Dramatists Play Service, Inc New York

Director Mark Kilmurry

Venue:  Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall Street, Kirribilli, NSW, 206
Dates: Tues Jan 6 to Sun Feb 15.
Performances: Tue–Fri 8.15pm, Sat 8.30pm, Sun 5pm, Thurs 11am till Jan 28. (Check website for Feb perf times) 
Prices: $38 - $62 (booking charges may apply)      
Bookings: 02 9929 0644 or www.ensemble.com.au
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Comments (2)

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Thoroughly enjoyed this show. I took my daughters as they had not experienced live drama before. They were both impressed also. Both actors were great but I have seen Glen Hazeldine in a couple of shows now and he is recommended viewing.
Brad , January 09, 2009
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A great show. The best thing we have seen all year. The play itself doesn't have the depth of the book, but it certainly brings it to life, particularly due to the exceptional performance of Daniel Mitchell as Morrie who is gleeful and lovable throughout despite the incredible sadness which occasionally fights its way through in some very touching moments.

Any actor playing opposite the character of Morrie is on a hiding to nothing as they are essentially the straight man in this partnership, but Glenn Hazeldine does well, avoiding any temptation to upstage Daniel Mitchell. Personally I would have liked to see more transition in the character of Mitch, from slacker student to stressed journalist, to reborn human being, however Hazeldine's performance was measured and believable throughout. He played Mitch's standoffisness very well which perfectly setup the brief but powerfully emotional farewell.

The direction was also very good, with good use of the small stage and plenty of natural movement to support the emotions and situations on display.

Easily the best theatre I've seen lately. My only criticism would be directed towards the theatre staff. They have to appreciate that the audience's experience begins and ends at the front door, not just when the lights come up and down. Try to be a little more friendly and welcoming. Additionally it seems crazy that the restaurant closes an hour before the production starts - surely that is exactly the time that people want to be eating.
Daniel , January 25, 2009

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