Thursday, November 5, 2020

Diva's Review of SRT's TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE - Moving, Humourous, and A Wonderful Reminder To Live Fully

After months of closure due to COVID-19, it was such a joy to see Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) open its doors again for the production of TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE.

The play is based on Mitch Albom's best selling book of the same name, which consists of a series of recorded conversations of Albom's old sociology professor who was terminally ill with Lou Gehrig's disease. The book, that has inspired so many readers, explores the meaning about life and death. Just like Albom's memoir, SRT's staging of this play is like a metaphor for the near-death of the local arts scene for several months due to the Circuit Breaker, and the now hopeful revival of live performances as some restrictions were lifted.

Mitch Albom, a well-known sports journalist in Detroit, was at the prime of his career. You know the old Hokkien song “Ai Piah Jia Eh Yia” (fighting/ struggling to win) that is heartily belted out at karaoke sessions? It is a battle cry to persist and win the fight, but it is also somewhat a tribute to Singapore-style kiasu-ness. And Mitch was kiasu alright. He was all about getting to the top and staying at the top, till he had forgotten how to really live.

After Mitch re-connects with his dying mentor Morrie Schwartz, and visits him every Tuesday, he begins to realise that everyone's number of days in this mortal plane is finite. He learned that we owe it to ourselves to have a happy life, to accept the things we cannot change, and to make things right with the people we love dearly. As the bond deepens between the two, Mitch also realises that it is OK for men to cry and to feel, and not to be afraid to be ‘touchy-feely’.

Benjamin Chow (The LKY Musical) as ambitious Mitch Albom was frenetic on stage, scurrying around with the need to fill one's life with "busyness". His take on Albom was so easily relatable because you know who they are. You have seen the same manic urgency in your bosses, fathers, husbands and friends. As the main narrator of the play, it was also lovely to listen to Benjamin's clear diction and emotive voice.

The tougher role definitely went to veteran actor Remesh Panicker (Romeo & Juliet, Merchant of Venice) who played the wise Morrie Schwartz. As the disease worsens, Schwartz's use of his limbs became limited, but Remesh skilfully conveyed the man's sadness, wittiness, and love through his voice and facial expressions. His performance was so moving, that by the time the play was ending, you would be grabbing for your tissues.

Generally, the way that the play was written falls flat at some points. However, the two actors emotional conviction and chemistry made up for that. Some of the feel-good platitudes and life lessons from Morrie tend to sound trite. As a cynic, Red Dot Diva would usually feel this way too. However, during these unusual times, she felt that it is worthwhile to be reminded about what is important in one's life and re-calibrate one's priorities.

TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, directed by Samantha-Scott Blackhall, is currently playing at SRT's KC Arts Centre till 6 December. The theatre has been re-arranged with a cozy cafe-style setting, for social distancing.

Tickets are almost already sold out! So, if you are keen to catch this play, better buy those tickets from SISTIC now.

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