Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom based on the book by Mitch Albom
28 Jan – 2 March 2019


A Short Play on Life and Death: „Tuesdays with Morrie“

Vienna’s English Theatre: Adrienne Ferguson’s uncluttered but sensitive production of the play by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom.
Vienna’s English Theatre presents melodramatic sentiment from the USA as a change from English understatement: „Tuesdays with Morrie“ is a fragile piece about leave-taking, its plot the final encounters between an elderly university professor and one of his erstwhile students. (…)

In Vienna the play is directed by Adrienne Ferguson. Tuesday was opening night and the applause was plentiful for her uncluttered but most sensitive version of this two-hander. John Atterbury presents us a professor suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sklerosis (ALS) with a gentle irony. (…)

The encounters change the younger character who is approaching mid-life crisis. Success and prestige no longer count that much when facing a dying man who is bathed in serenity and who knows that what really counts is Love. However unhappy one may be about dying, to live unhappily is so very much worse; suddenly, all sorts of things break out that Mitch has successfully suppressed for so long. Menaul gives us a melancholy man (with considerable skill at the piano) who, despite his talents, has forsaken his vocation as a jazz musician in order to pursue a lucrative career as sports journalist. Morrie is understanding about this, he is proud of Mitch and gives him one further piece of advice: greater tranquillity.
Morrie, himself in great pain, retains such a tranquillity right to the end. Atterbury portrays a stoic, one who has great empathy and unbounded understanding for his former student. At the end, however, as the small stage of the English Theatre darkens, tears do begin to flow, as the old man ceases to be able to breathe. Death takes control, bringing peace at last. Morrie has been able, to impart some of this peace to his younger friend. To the audience, too.

Norbert Mayer



American author, Jeffrey Hatcher, is known for turning out „well-made plays“ which are usually also practical to stage; the last play of his that we saw at the English Theatre was „A Picasso“, a two-hander on the subject of art. This time Vienna’s English Theatre presents „Tuesdays with Morrie“, once again with two actors, once more a gripping ninety minutes. (…)

In the play that Jeffrey Hatcher has put together from Mitch Albom’s bestselling memoirs, Mitch acts as narrator who recounts and enacts his final encounters with Morrie; he has put aside important professional engagements so as to be able to visit the elderly professor every Tuesday. In the process he discovers what he has always known in his heart of hearts, that there is more to life than money and success. The result is a series of verbal duels full of humor and reflection; the pair savour these with great beauty and human warmth.
Inevitably, if someone is dying on stage, things can become a bit maudlin; nevertheless, Morrie’s wisdom and Mitch’s growing awareness come across. This leaves the spectator with the satisfying feeling of having spent the evening dealing with the important things in life. What’s more, he himself feels something of the empathy emanating from the stage.

One reason for the success of Adrienne Ferguson’s production (which also doesn’t shy away from moments of comic relief) is the inherently consistent acting in Judith Croft’s practical setting: Stefan Menaul’s Mitch is constantly on the search for answers to what life is about, at least in the few moments his hectic everyday life isn’t gnawing at his very existence. John Atterbury, as the elderly invalid, meantime, renders a Morrie blessed with a humour beyond his pain and a spiritual transcendence; his performance pulls at our heartstrings.

Renate Wagner
29. Jänner 2019