“(A) brutally human and beautifully layered new play…you feel both enlightened and, in a strange way, enormously comforted.” (New York Times)
On September 15, 2016, El Paseo Arts Foundation is proud and honored to host a performance of the Camille Playhouse’s powerful production of Wit, by Margaret Edson. Under the direction of the Camille’s new artistic director, Christopher Ikner, Wit has been described by The New York Times as “the kind of theatrical experience of which legends are made”. This powerfully play examines what makes life worth living through Edson’s exploration of one of existence’s unifying experiences―mortality. It also probes the vital importance of human relationships.
In Wit, Edson delves into timeless questions with no final answers: How should we live our lives knowing that we will die? Is the way we live our lives and interact with others more important than what we achieve materially, professionally, or intellectually? Can science and art help us conquer death, or our fear of it? What will seem most important to each of us about life as that life comes to an end?
Wit follows Vivian Bearing, a brilliant, demanding, and highly articulate poetry professor, as she undergoes experimental treatment for Stage IV ovarian cancer. During the course of her illness, Vivian is moved from a position of authority to one of dependency. As she stoically deals with her treatment, she reassesses her life and work in an emotionally powerful, profound, sometimes humorous, and finally inspiring way that transforms her and each of us.
The play swept nearly every drama award given for an off-Broadway play, including the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, The Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, two Drama League awards and the Outer Critics’ Circle Award for Outstanding Play. In 1999, Wit was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The 2012 Broadway production was nominated for the Tony Award, Best Revival of a Play, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play; and the Mike Nichol’s direction of Emma Thompson in the leading role, won the 2001 Emmy Award for Outstanding Made-for-TV Movie. It is indeed a riveting play.
Wit is, of course, scary – when is cancer not? Everyone’s life has been touched in some way by this terrible disease and this amazing play treads paths that are hard for us to go down because it brings us face to face with our own mortality. Yet the central story of Wit is not somber but indeed, as the title suggests, witty. There are many moments when it’s also funny – very funny – which is part of its triumph. We understand the pain and the process so much more clearly through the main character’s witty vision. Ana-Laura Chavez plays Dr. Vivian Bearing, who serves as both the narrator and central character in the play which is set during the final hours of the life of this distinguished professor of English.
Dr. Bearing recounts her story to the audience through a series of monologues and flashbacks, beginning with the initial diagnosis from her oncologist, Dr. Harvey Kelekian, played by Ricky Garza. Over the eight-month course of her experimental treatment, Dr. Bearing comes into contact with one of her former students, now a young research fellow, Dr. Jason Posner, played by William Abete. Dr. Posner has a lot to learn about a lot of things, especially human empathy. At the other end of the spectrum is Vivian’s nurse, Susie Monahan (Jacqueline Garza), who provides Vivian’s only touch with humanity and kindness. We also meet Vivian’s college mentor, Dr. E.M. Ashford (Kathy Raines), and completing the cast is a small ensemble of performers (Caty Wantland, Benjamin Melendez, Alex Robles, Margarita Perez), who play Vivian’s students and various hospital technicians and doctors.
“Every once in a while a play comes along that bonds people together in extraordinary ways. The play “isn’t a tearful lecture on how to die; it’s a dry-eyed lesson on how to live–with simplicity and kindness.” (The Boston Globe) This stunning piece of theatre is not to be missed.
The evening begins at the SPI Convention Center with a cash bar (only), open at 6:30 p.m. The theatre opens for seating at 7:00 p.m. and the performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for Wit are $30 per person, $25 for El Paseo Arts members. Tickets are available for purchase at Paragraphs Book Store, the Art Gallery in Port Isabel, PadreRitaGrill, and online at www.elpaseoarts.org.