Tuesdays With Morrie
Terry Byrne (left) and Andrew Murray in Tuesdays With Morrie.
By Charlie Mcbride
ALREADY A best-selling book and successful TV movie, Mitch Albom’s heart-warming memoir, Tuesdays With Morrie, comes to the Town Hall Theatre stage next week in an acclaimed new production.
This deeply emotional drama is the autobiographical story of Albom, an accomplished journalist, and Morrie Schwartz, his former college professor. Sixteen years after graduation, Mitch reconnects with Morrie after learning his old professor is battling motor neurone disease. What starts as a simple visit turns into a weekly pilgrimage and a last class in the meaning of life. This is a tender, touching, funny, and deeply moving exploration of friendship and life.
Directed by Breda Cashe, the play features Andrew Murray as Mitch and veteran actor/director Terry Byrne in the role of Morrie. Ahead of the play’s Galway visit, Terry Byrne took some time to chat about the production. He began by expanding on the details of the story.
“It’s about these two people, a university student and his sociology professor who become very friendly,” he says. “The professor is like a mentor to the student but they parted company when Mitch left college and made his way in the wider world where he became a very successful journalist. Meanwhile the professor, Morrie Schwartz, gets Lou Gehrig’s Disease which in Ireland would be referred to as motor neurone disease.
“Morrie was an iconic character on campus. Somebody told the producer of Nightline, a major TV show, about him, and Ted Koppel the anchorman went to interview him and the interview was so successful and touched so many people that they did three more interviews with him.
“One of these interviews was seen by Mitch Albom. As a kind of act of conscience he decided to go and see him and from that first re-encounter with Morrie something touched him in some way he couldn’t describe and he subsequently arranged to go and see Morrie every Tuesday.
“It was kind of a life-coaching session, they talked about life and Morrie’s mission seems to have been to get Mitch to loosen up, to live a happier life, and to impart some of the values that would enable him to do that.
“Mitch in a way was ministering to Morrie who is ill and approaching ever closer to death. Even though he was approaching death Morrie was not morose about it, he had accustomed himself to the idea of dying. In the play we see the two men meet during Mitch’s college days and how they became friendly and then subsequently the conversational sessions they had up until Morrie died.”
Schwartz was clearly a remarkable individual, as Byrne goes on to explain.
“Morrie was an old Jewish guy and was always a man of some wisdom and also light of heart,” he says. “He became progressively influenced by things he had learned about Buddhism, things like stillness and living in the present moment. What he brings to the equation is a lot of wisdom and tranquillity of mind. Mitch is increasingly impressed by the way this philosophy of living is helping him to change the way he is thinking about his life.”
Even though the story is about a dying man, Byrne stresses that it is not depressing or angst-filled.
“The play is not in the least morose, it’s really funny,” he declares. “There is a terrific balance achieved between the tragedy of the man dying, the young man’s discovery of himself and, as those two things intersect, there is terrific humour in it up to the very end.
“It’s a very well constructed play in the sense that it has certain important things to say and a tragic story to tell but it balances that very well with terrific comedy. You’d think it was Neil Simon who wrote it it’s so good, and the audiences have been responding really well to it.”
Reviewers have also responded warmly to the play; The Mail on Sunday noted that “the exchanges between the two are so truthful, sharp, and humorous that it never descends into sentimentality. Terry Byrne as Morrie and Andrew Murray as Mitch give memorable performances that are both funny and poignant.”
Tuesdays With Morrie is at the Town Hall from next Monday to Wednesday at 8pm. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie