October 20, 2020
Virtually delivered magnificence in Iowa Stage’s Tuesdays with Morrie
By John Busbee for The Culture Buzz
Iowa Stage Theatre Company had established a tradition of exceptional production quality for its shows. It shot out of the 2019-2020 gate with a bang, being the second company (first to publicly announce this coup) of producing A Doll’s House and A Doll’s House, Part 2 in repertory. This was followed by a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol, then the world premiere of a new Robert John Ford musical, Adore Us! Line, a smash hit. Their momentum was stopped by the COVID wall along with every other performing arts organization.
The new season became challenging. Company Artistic Director Matt McIver, also director of Tuesdays with Morrie, talks about the challenges in their virtual playbill. McIver acknowledges that the severity of the COVID impact on live theatre has been profound, but reminds everyone of the bigger reality: COVID as a life-taking illness is even more devastating. Coping with the big picture and the creative drive to offer fare for the soul, Iowa Stage is finding a path to travel. Sometimes that path will be obvious. At other times, they will have to machete their way through dense obstructions. Their first offering was Kerry Skram’s excellent adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. This was gem, although with some technical hiccups, gave patrons seeking new performances a glimmer of hope.
With Tuesdays with Morrie, Iowa Stage elevates its game in the world of virtual presentation. McIver delivers all the power of Mitch Albom’s book, as adapted for stage by Jeffrey Hatcher and Albom. The pacing and interaction from his cast captivate. This virtual production didn’t rely on a forgiving audience for technical shortcomings – there were very few, and nothing that distracted from the performances of Tom Geraty (as Morrie Schwartz) and Benjamin Sheridan (as Mitch Albom).
Albom’s beautifully scripted story transitions marvelously into a stage performance. With such rich content to work with, Geraty and Sheridan show why they are two of the best performers in Central Iowa. With an elegant attention to details, McIver and his production team craft a memorable performance experience. While live theatre remains the goal for Iowa Stage, Tuesdays with Morrie proves that a satisfying performance can be delivered virtually.
Sheridan and Geraty bring rich, layered performances to their roles. They are completely invested, giving an honesty that brings this story to vibrant life. Add Josh Jepson’s skilled sound design, inserting subtle audio enhancements to the story. The skillful gliding from one screen to another was smooth, and this show carries its audience along a memorable journey. The effortless passing of a gift from Mitch to Morrie was a real moment, even though the two were in different locations. Tuesdays with Morrie is delivered with heart, soul and a resonance that will remain well beyond its final moments. An advantage to live theatre is the cinematic aspect is experiencing the performers up close. Reactions to each other had an enhanced impact, bringing the power of this script to a special heightened delivery.
Tuesday with Morrie is a wonderful way to spend some time with what may be a new hybrid for performing arts. The day will come when we can again gather in shared artistic communion but, until that time arrives, this Iowa Stage show is a great feast of creative sustenance.
The Culture Buzz theatre reviews are written by professional writers to inform and enlighten. To receive weekly newsletters, email TheCultureBuzz@gmail.com or visit www.TheCultureBuzz.com. The Culture Buzz is a weekly broadcast/streaming arts & entertainment collection of news and conversations, airing Wednesdays 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Central Time on KFMG 98.9 FM and streaming at www.kfmg.org.