Perfect alchemy onstage/ Yang award, other events

SUNDRY STROKES () - January 26, 2008 - 12:00am

“Tuesdays with Morrie” by Joffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom is a dramatic delineation of the bonding — or friendship — between Prof. Morrie Schwartz, portrayed by Jose Mari Avellana, and his student Mitch Albom portrayed by Bart Guingona.

The bonding is interrupted, each losing touch with the other for 16 years, but the love between them is indestructible and grows deeper as they resume their friendship.

Mitch is a remarkable jazz pianist who initially engages in a music career after graduation but who later turns to journalism, becoming a highly successful sports columnist. He accidentally learns that Morrie is ailing and, henceforth, flies every Tuesday from Detroit to Boston to visit the professor.

If Morrie and Mitch were lovers or husband and wife, one might conclude they were made for each other because the alchemy between them is perfect; the drama, after each visit by Mitch, grows more riveting as the brilliant Avellana and the equally brilliant Guingona interact. Morrie’s wracking cough, his trembling hand that fails to convey food to his mouth, the stabbing pain in his back — these are made so utterly palpable, so terrifyingly real by the superb Avellana that the viewer suffers with him in sheer agony. Mitch’s own grief as he breaks into uncontrollable weeping over Morrie’s desperate condition is gripping beyond words.

The play’s locale, its external details are patently American. Mitch’s piano pieces (e.g., “The Very Thought of You”) are vintage 50s and 60s. Even Morrie’s disease is named after that of the legendary American baseball hero Lou Gehrig.

But the underlying truths and values — the gems of wisdom — the play imparts, primarily through Morrie, are universal. Morrie is dying yet, in a sense, he is more alive than Mitch. Ironically, even in his unbearable pain, he dispenses acts of kindness and gives of himself much more than Mitch  and the other visitors give of themselves.

Morrie will not die,  averts Mitch; his memory will remain etched in the hearts of those whose lives he has touched. Mitch even promises to visit Morrie in his grave every Tuesday to imbibe more lessons!

The profoundly moving scenes are so integrated they show perfect alchemy, likewise, between director Baby Barredo and the two players. Episodes, big or small, are magnificently woven together by Barredo into seamless, absorbing theater.

The interjection of music provides welcome relief to the heavy, lugubrious atmosphere. Morrie’s wife and sons, and Mitch’s own wife are made “visible” through the dialogue, and Barredo’s impersonation of Mitch’s wife, as a recording of her lovely singing voice is heard, considerably enlivens the drama.

It opens and closes with music filling the air and lifting the spirit: Guingona plays the tango, fox trot, rhumba, etc. on the piano while Avellana dances to their rhythms. I repeat: from start to finish the alchemy is perfect!

Rep’s “Tuesdays” continues at Greenbelt’s Onstage until Jan. 27, Saturday and Sunday. Call 8919999.

The fast-rising tenor George Yang, a finalist in Aliw’s male classical category, received a special Aliw Award last Nov. 28, 2007 “for his outstanding contribution to popularizing classical music in the Philippines which has been an inspiration to today’s live entertainers.”

As climax to the ceremonies, Mr. Yang rendered the “Drinking Song” from La Traviata with leading soprano Rachelle Gerodias.

Later, Mr. Yang performed at cocktails for the very exclusive Tower Club of which he is a founding governor. He interpreted the Broadway hit “If I Love You” and the semi-classic Italian Senza Catene.

Botong mural unveiled

“The Evolution of Philippine Culture”, a mural by National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco, will be unveiled today at 3 p.m. by the St. Paul U. Manila at the Fleur-de-lis auditorium lobby.

Australian Percussion Ensemble

Described as “funky, spunky with a touch of the outrageous”, Australia’s famed Tetrafide Percussion will perform today at 3 p.m. on the Museo Pambata grounds and at 7 p.m. in the SM Mall of Asia.

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