Tuesdays with Morrie a touching story

Mitch Albom’s long-time relationship with his friend, mentor and teacher became the focus of his life. Morrie Schwartz’s diagnosis of a fatal disease radically changes them both. One of the results is Albom’s best-seller, Tuesdays with Morrie.

Artists’ Ensemble’s production, directed by Stephen F. Vrtol III, brings two talented and sensitive actors to the stage. Rod MacDonald has been an influence on our lives for years. As Rod would say, “too many to mention.” As the host, Roddy Mac, he spent 18 years entertaining children and interviewing celebrities on local television. By the 1970s, he began a professional acting career and began his association with New American Theater. Soon after the death of my husband, On Golden Pond recalled the joyous days on our own “golden pond.” Rod and his wife Ginny got it exactly right.

As Morrie Schwartz, his wry humor and philosophical view of the end of life touches us all. My own father, shortly before his death, taped a radio show on death and dying. As Morrie, Rod replicates those exact words. My personal reflections, engendered by the play, were the same as many in the audience.

Richard Raether is Mitch, the up-and-coming journalist, telling us of his years as a student, his first encounter with death, and later the significance of reuniting with Morrie. Mitch becomes a caring person, finally learning to cry, and evolving into another son. Both actors give amazing performances. The play runs with no intermission, allowing emotions to build until the final scene. The close relationship between Director Vrtol and the actors is obvious. Their professional ties and deep friendship combine beautifully to produce a memorable evening of theater.

The intimate space of Cheek Theatre at Rockford College is the perfect venue. We are so close to the actors, the intensity of the drama encases us. On entering, we encountered nearly every member of the ensemble. The success of Artists’ Ensemble is based entirely on this close-knit group. Tuesdays with Morrie runs through April 1. Houses are being sold out, and additional performances are being added. For tickets, call the box office at (815) 226-4100.

from the March 21-27, 2007, issue

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