Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Arts and Entertainment

Margaret Edson's 'Wit' Scaled to the Intimacy of Drury's Studio Theatre

(Logo courtesy Drury University)

The Drury University Department of Theatre will present "Wit," by Margaret Edson. Directed by Drury University Professor of Theater Dr. Robin Schraft, the play opens on Wednesday, March 4th at 7:30 p.m. in the Studio Theatre in Springfield Hall, and continues through Saturday March 7.

According to Dr. Schraft, this Pulitzer Prize winning play is a celebration of life and an exploration of human dignity.  It's about Vivian, a 50-year-old literature scholar who has "dedicated her life solely to the pursuit of, ironically, John Donne's Holy Sonnets dealing with salvation and death. But she's never actually dealt with it from a human point of view, from dealing with people.  She deals with it purely from a scholarly viewpoint. So now she's forced to start to confront not only the lifestyle that's kept her isolated from other people, but also how to deal with her own impending death," says Dr. Schraft.

Vivian suffers from stage 4 ovarian cancer. Robin Schraft says that this diagnosis was "very deliberately, very carefully chosen by the playwright, as the survival rate in the latter part of Stage 4 is very slim."

The action takes place in the hospital where Vivian is being treated.  Despite the fact that there's a cast of 10, and as Dr. Schaft readily admits, "the show really doesn't like being in a small space," he says he "really wanted the intimacy (of the Drury Studio Theatre). Vivian spends a lot of time talking to the audience, and I wanted (the distance between actor and viewers) only to be a couple of feet. And so we've scaled the show physically to fit into the space."

Drury student Amelia Parris plays Susie, the floor nurse who takes care of Vivian throughout her treatment. Amelia's role of "general caretaker" for Vivian gets very specific (and possibly uncomfortable for the audience!) at several points. She says, "At one point we insert a catheter--I help measure her input and output.  Definitely some medical, almost uncomfortable moments, but with really lovely dialog over them.  And it's really about a human connection--even though we're doing such really dark things in the show."

"Susie's really the character who has the humanity--really the only one in the play that has the human touch. She cares about Vivian as a person," according to Dr. Schraft.

Certainly there's little "humanity" in the character portrayed by Drury student Keith Taveres. "I play Dr. Jason Posner, who's a clinical fellow working with a senior oncologist, learning so that he can get own research lab. And his main focus is on the cancer research--he's not so concerned with his patients or the clinical side of the medical profession." In fact, Robin Schraft says, "Jason is the young Vivian!  And she come to see that in the course of the play, as he does."

Despite the dark moments and the theme of terminal cancer, Dr. Schraft says ultimately, "Wit" really is a celebration of life. "There's a fair amount of humor in the script--it's ironic. There are some very touching moments.

"I saw an interview with Cynthia Nixon, who played Vivian in the Broadway revival, and her answer when asked 'What can people expect?', I think best sums it up.  She said, 'They can expect to cry a lot, and they can expect to laugh a lot.'"

Tickets are $14 for adults, $7 for senior citizens and non-Drury students, and $3 for Drury faculty, staff and students and children under the age of 12.  Show runs March 4th-6th at 7:30 pm and March 7th at 2pm & 7:30 pm. For reservations contact the theatre box office at (417) 873-7255 Monday through Friday from 1-5 p.m.