By Randall Rumley
Niagara Gazette — To prepare for this review of the Niagara Regional Theatre Guild’s production of “Tuesdays with Morrie” at the Ellicott Creek Playhouse I re-read Mitch Albom’s well-written book of the same title: I was not disappointed by the outstanding performance of this two man exploration into the power of wisdom and courage versus imminent death.
Doug Smith plays Professor Morrie Schwartz with determination and sensitivity; the audience immediately begins to fall under his Yiddish charm and humor. M. Joseph Fratello deftly portrays Mitch Albom with a warm, charming voice, effectively presenting the confusion in Mitch’s own life choices, as well as his occasional befuddlement with his beloved sociology professor’s fatal prognosis—ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a brutal, unforgiving illness of the neurological system. The progression of the illness is clearly presented by Smith’s intense performance, as well as several wise choices made by Director John Quackenbush, such as economy of set, lively staging, and wonderfully fast-paced scene changes, allowing just enough time to savor the wisdom of the previous scene.
However, the chemistry between Smith and Fratello is the key to this fine production where laughter and tears mingle into an enchanting elixir of humanity. Morrie gives a final lesson to Mitch and the world, teaching us what it is to be human, facing death with dignity, humor, and intelligence. The lesson was well-received by the audience who rose to their feet simultaneously.
Ultimately, the play, like the book, is not depressing — it is life-affirming. “Tuesdays” is uplifting and inspirational and required coursework for all human beings. Performances continue Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday at 530 Ellicott Creek Road, Town of Tonawanda. Tickets are $10 to $14. Call 284-6358 or visit www. niagaratheatre.com. Nine rockets out of ten.use NAD Fratello mug AND Doug Smith mug (in system) Joseph Fratello Doug Smith