There is an energy pulsating on opening night unparalleled to any other kind. This might sound like a peculiar way to describe the theatrical atmosphere for CenterStage’s production of W;t, but I promise you; this show resonates with more vitality than you can conjure in your mind. Artistic director John Leffert put it best when he introduced this dramatic play as “more than about cancer and more than about death..about life and facing your fears and questions and answering those questions.” In our interview, Mr. Leffert foretold of playwright Margaret Edson’s remarkable talent. There was the assurance of learning profound knowledge about one’s self. So, I committed to wearing glasses over contacts to prepare for tears and unearthing inner truths.
Carol Tyree Williams effortessly exposes the spiritual soul behind the cancer patient as Dr. Vivian Bearing.
Cancer is admittedly a grave topic. But the brilliance of theater lies in interpretation. What could have easily become a maudlin, overwhelmingly austere story is given fresh face. Through poetry and sparkling wit, Carol Tyree Williams’ Dr. Vivian Bearing is a tour de force that will make your heart coil and wring the breath from your lungs. This is a role of a lifetime, and Ms. Williams exults in it. She imbues just the ideal amount of strength and drollness into a character that could otherwise be swallowed up by intricate monologues. With Ms. Williams, Dr. Bearing is simply luminous. It was a privilege to watch her dominate the stage. Lighting Designer, Theresa Bagan, demonstrates astute emotional perception, relying on the distinctions between light and shadows to render Dr. Bearing an intellectual architect or a haunted shell of a professor with specter’s eyes.
I was also blown away by Mr. Leffert’s incisive use of costume. CenterStage’s rising star Lauren LeBlanc imparts R.N. Susie Monahan with tender, heartrending mercy. The progression of vibrant scrubs Susie wears only serve to heighten her gust of welcome humanity. Every detail from Andrew Epstein’s spot-on emotionally clumsy Dr. Jason Posner’s ballpoint pen-chewing antics to even the poignancy of a Popsicle will either have you chuckling in recognition or shedding cathartic tears. A parody of hospital aloofness guilty of too many in the medical profession resonates with the absurdity of asking, “How are you?” and never truly caring to know the sincere retort.
Flashbacks serve as an evocative medium of showing you the life of a cancer patient behind the generic “life history” on a medical interview form. We all were once innocent children delighting in reading our first books, too naïve to understand the malice of poor health and the awful havoc disease inflicts. We exist beyond the ominous hospital drapes. Cancer can strip away vigor, but it cannot strip rob a person of meaning. Hours later, I am still affected by the sheer emotive clout of W;t. The emotional spin wheel is wholeheartedly worth all the wisdom.
Interactive Wall of Hope for cancer survivors, fighters, and loved ones to empathize with shared and unique experiences. Feel free to post your own message when you attend.
Sunday, Feb. 16, CenterStage at the JCC will be premiering a special benefit performance of W;t hosted by Gilda's Club Louisville. All $35 ticket proceeds will go towards helping that cancer organization. It's a terrific cause.
See W;t in honor of your grandmother who taught you your first word. Remember your grandfather's hearty laugh in spite of pain. Discover the depths of your own identity.
This Pulitzer-prize winning play will be showing from Feb. 13 through Feb. 23, 2014 at the JCC Linker Auditorium. Rush tickets are limited, and are $10 per ticket for evening performances on Sunday, Monday and Thursday. All other tickets are $18 per person in advance and $20 at the door.
Dial 502-459-0660 or visit CenterStageJCC.org for more information on tickets for this show or future shows (upcoming production: The Color Purple).