The play opens with Dr. Vivian Bearing speaking directly to the audience and explaining the situation to us - that this is a play about her life, or rather death. Scenes of her treatment (eight months of experimental chemotherapy at full dose) play out interspersed with flashbacks to her childhood, studies, and teaching career. Dr. Bearing occasionally breaks out of the scene to comment to us, the audience, about what's going on or what she's really feeling. This style makes the play very compelling and engaging, as the hour and forty minutes fly by and feel like ten.
|Sally Wingert and Corey DiNardo (photo by Hilary Roberts)|
|Cristina Florencia Castro and Sally Wingert (photo by Hilary Roberts)|
Director Benjamin McGovern makes great use of the ensemble and the space. A sterile hospital-blue elevated stage (with ramps so that hospital equipment and wheelchairs can be wheeled on and off) is open in the black box space, no walls. The doors on either side (by which the audience and actors typically enter and exit) are incorporated into the theater space. Ensemble members often huddle on stage, or stand at attention just off the stage watching the action. The staging and movement of the ensemble are dynamic and interesting, but don't take away from Vivian's journey.
For that's what Wit is - a journey. One woman's journey from a life she thought she understood, through a slow death, and perhaps into some kind of greater understanding. It's a painful joy, or a joyful pain, to take that journey with Sally Wingert and the rest of this very capable cast and creative team. Wit continues at Artistry in Bloomington through May 28.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.