Young at Heart Players presents an excellently heartrending production of Mitch Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher’s stage adaptation of Albom’s 1997 best-seller “Tuesdays with Morrie” at the Dayton Playhouse.
Fluidly co-directed by YAH founder Fran Pesch and her daughter Annie Pesch, this effectively scaled down two-hander absolutely thrives on the terrific performances of Patrick Allyn Hayes as sports reporter Albom and a remarkable Jamie McQuinn as Albom’s former sociology professor Morrie Schwartz. Believably bonded in the past and present, Hayes and McQuinn forge a fascinating journey unabashedly sentimental at its core but also very enlightening. Significant and meaningful life lessons arise notably rendered by McQuinn with eloquent earnestness.
The story is based on Albom’s endearing reflections with Schwartz, whom he visited over the course of 14 Tuesdays while working for the Detroit Free Press. He hadn’t seen Schwartz since graduating from Brandeis University 16 years prior, but his travels from Michigan to Massachusetts became an important lifeline particularly as drama at work threatened to consume him. As Schwartz battles Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Albom ultimately realizes the importance of living life to the fullest.
In his first major leading role, McQuinn soars in a quietly astute performance blending charm and whimsy with beautiful sensitivity in a father figure capacity. As Schwartz’s health deteriorates, the script naturally allows McQuinn to become more profound and he certainly succeeds in doing so. When Schwartz reminds Albom to “forgive everyone everything” before it’s too late, it’s difficult not to fall under McQuinn’s gentle and inspiring spell. At the same rate, Hayes, in one of his most vulnerable, emotional and understated performances, equally resonates. He displays great narrative skill and appealingly reiterates Albom’s openness to learn and really grasp Schwartz’s morsels of goodness with each meeting. Hayes and McQuinn are also required to go out of their comfort zones a bit (Hayes mimics playing piano; McQuinn attempts a few dance steps) but do so admirably.
“When you age you grow and when you grow you learn,” says Schwartz. This Thanksgiving, let us be thankful for the special teachers who made a difference in our lives. Be sure to stop by the Playhouse and spend time with one of the greats.
“Tuesdays with Morrie” continues through Nov. 26 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. The play is performed in 90 minutes without intermission. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and students. Tickets may be purchased at the door. For reservations, call Fran Pesch at (937) 654-040. For additional information, visit youngatheartplayers.com