By Pablo Cornejo
Starting on March 29, Theatre Arlington will begin its run of the award-winning play “Wit” by Margaret Edson. Here are three reasons why you need to be there:
The story follows Vivian Bearing, a doctor of philosophy and expert in 17th-century literature who is diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. Under advisement from her doctor, she submits herself to an experimental form of chemotherapy. Through the course of her therapy, she realizes that the cold and detached treatment from her doctors, including one of her former students, is not too different from the way she lived her life before her diagnosis, placing the pursuit of knowledge above connecting with other people.
The play has been collecting accolades for over a decade, most notably winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1999. In 2001, it was turned into an Emmy-award winning HBO movie by Mike Nichols, director of “The Graduate,” which starred Emma Thompson and Christopher Lloyd.
Most recently, the play made its Broadway debut and earned nominations at the 2012 Tony Awards for Best Leading Actress and Best Revival of a Play.
The subject matter and critical acclaim might give the impression that this is a stuffy, depressing drama, but it’s called “Wit” for a reason. Vivian Bearing handles the proceedings with frankness and a droll sense of humor, mostly in conversation with the audience itself.
“I love when people can successfully break the fourth wall and ‘Wit’ does it well,” said Lydia Silva, a fan of the film adaptation. “I also enjoyed the dialogue, especially Vivian’s witty nature.”
Theatre Arlington, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this season, provides the perfect intimate setting for a play that requires its lead character to genuinely connect with the audience.
The theater only has 199 seats, meaning that even people in the back row have a good vantage point. Talking and cell phone use is strongly discouraged. Concessions are available before the show and during intermission, but you don’t have to worry about someone smacking or slurping in your ear during the show because no food or drinks are allowed in the theater.
Theatre Arlington might be small, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t committed to quality. It has assembled some of the metroplex’s top talent to bring “Wit” to the stage. The play is being directed by award-winning actress Emily Scott Banks and features an experienced cast led by Krista Scott.
Above all, “Wit” continues to be revived and brought to stages around the country because it deeply resonates with audiences, from people who never thought they’d sit in a play about cancer to actual cancer patients. It’s an unflinching portrayal of a dreaded disease, but thanks to its endearing heroine, “Wit” is able to tackle a morbid subject with humor, honesty and an appreciation for life.
“We always hear how bad it is to have cancer and the treatments that make you feel more ill,” said Christopher Aguilar, another fan of the film. ”But ‘Wit’ allowed me to see it first hand and helped me understand more of what people have to go through, and it’s very touching.”
Performances will be held March 29 through April 14. Show times are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are available on the Theatre Arlington website.