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Jerry Sipp and John Honeycutt Bring Tuesdays with Morrie to Life (Again) at Temple Theatre

John Honeycutt (left) and Jerry Sipp star in Tuesdays with Morrie (photo by Valerie Taylor)

John Honeycutt (left) and Jerry Sipp star in Tuesdays with Morrie (photo by Valerie Taylor)

Jerry Sipp and John Honeycutt, the stars of Temple Theatre of Sanford’s current production of Tuesdays with Morrie, reprise their crowd-pleasing performances from this past February’s presentation of this two-character show, originally directed by Cary’s Andy Hayworth for Raleigh’s The Justice Theater Project. Messrs. Honeycutt and Sipp, once again under the direction of Mr. Hayworth, still have great chemistry and impeccable timing.

Written by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom, the play is based Albom’s 1997 memoir, Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson. Tuesdays with Morrie was a #1 New York Times bestseller and later adapted into a 1999 television movie starring award winners Jack Lemmon as Morrie and Hank Azaria as Mitch.

The story centers around two characters, newspaper sports columnist Mitch Albom and his former Brandeis University sociology professor Morrie Schwartz, who is dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).

Tuesdays with Morrie originally opened Off Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theater on Nov. 19, 2002. It is a vivid recounting of interlocking stories of one man losing his life as another is beginning to find his. It is based on 14 meetings between Albom and Schwartz during which they discussed life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.

After seeing Morrie Schwartz interviewed on Nightline with Ted Koppel, Albom decided to visit him every Tuesday to discuss “The Meaning of Life”. Together, they wrote the book later adapted into this play, which acts as their “final thesis together.”

Highly accomplished actor and Temple Theatre’s artistic director from 2001 to 2005, Jerry Sipp reprises his role as Mitch Albom, a sports editor who is disillusioned with his life. Mitch serves as a vehicle through which Morrie can convey his wisdom.

Mitch has a good heart but values money, and fame, over love. After reconnecting with his old friend and teacher, Mitch has an epiphany that his priorities need to change.

Jerry Sipp flawlessly transitions from Narrator Mitch to fully engaging with Morrie. I also enjoy Sipp’s character choices. It would be very easy for Mitch to fully be portrayed as narcissistic and shallow. Although there are distinct moments of this behavior, Sipp focuses more on how Mitch is lost; and the moments that he realizes that he is not the man he wants to be. This makes those moments more genuine and, at times, heartbreaking to watch.

John Honeycutt is also an accomplished actor and producer. He is absolutely phenomenal as Morrie, the Jewish sociology professor recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Despite the effects that ALS had on Morrie’s physical body, it left his mind with vivid clarity. Morrie is able to pierce through Mitch’s dense veneer of professionalism and greed by reminding him of the caring young man that he used to be.

Morrie is able to reach through the human essence of every individual whom he befriends. He doesn’t accept his debilitating disease and imminent death, and he refuses to be embarrassed by his physical shortcomings or new-found reliance on others.

John Honeycutt delivers some great humorous one liners that not only lighten the mood, but are a testament to the courage and willpower of Morrie. Anyone who has ever watched a loved one suffer can feel the painful transition as Morrie’s health slowly starts to decline.

It is truly an honor to watch Jerry Sipp and John Honeycutt hone their craft. You forget that you are watching a play, and instantly feel as though you are privileged in getting to share in the tender moments of a rekindling friendship. The emotional roller-coaster that Honeycutt and Sipp portray is honest and pure.

Director Andy Hayworth does a good job at staging the various scenes within the play. He isolates certain moments and thoughts while inviting us into others. The set changes are character-driven and flow nicely into each other.

Scenic designer Tab May’s set is humble yet homey. He effectively utilizes every inch of the small space to create an inviting atmosphere that time has not changed; and lighting director Dallas LaFon creates some very special lighting moments, specifically involving Morrie.

This is my first time visiting the Temple Theatre. However, if Tuesdays with Morrie is the caliber of shows that the Sanford theater’s artistic director, Peggy Taphorn, presents, this will not be my last.

The theater itself is an older, intimate theater in the heart of the downtown district. The building retains its original 1920’s charm and character, and every seat has a great view of the stage.

In current times of uncertainty, Tuesdays with Morrie puts life into perspective. It gives us a good hard look at who we are and how we co-exist in this world.

This is a show that you definitely need to see. It is well worth the drive to Sanford, and it will make you reevaluate your own life while restoring your faith in others. Ladies should forego their mascara, and gentleman should bring your handkerchiefs. If you don’t get verklempt watching this show, you might need to check your pulse.

SECOND OPINION: Oct. 20th Sanford, NC Sanford Herald preview by Michelle Bir: http://www.sanfordherald.com/news/tuesdays-with-morrie-opens-at-temple/article_128e02da-957d-11e6-b36d-7731a50c28fb.html (Note: You must subscribe to read this article).

Temple Theatre presents TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE at 8 p.m. Oct. 22, 2 p.m. Oct. 23 and 27, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 28, 8 p.m. Oct. 29, 2 p.m. Oct. 30 and Nov. 3, 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 4, 8 p.m. Nov. 5, and p.m. Nov. 6 at 120 Carthage St., Sanford, North Carolina 27330.

TICKETS: $25 ($14 students and $21 Lee County teachers/educator and active-duty military personnel), except $21 for adults on Thursday nights and $21 per ticket for groups of 10 or more.

BOX OFFICE: 919-774-4155, boxoffice@templeshows.com, or https://www.vendini.com/.

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-774-4155, boxoffice@templeshows.com, or http://www.templeshows.com/ticketinfo/grouppackagesandsales.php.

SHOW: http://www.templeshows.com/showsandevents/currentshow.php and .

2016-17 MAINSTAGE SEASON: http://www.templeshows.com/showsandevents/fullseason16-17.php.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.templeshows.com/, https://www.facebook.com/TheTempleTheatre, and https://twitter.com/TempleTheatreNC, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Theatre_%28Sanford,_North_Carolina%29.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.templeshows.com/visit/index.php.

OTHER LINKS:

Morrie Schwartz (Brandeis University sociology professor and author, 1916-95): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morrie_Schwartz (Wikipedia).

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson (1997 memoir): http://www.mitchalbom.com/books/tuesdays-with-morrie/(author’s website), http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/1588/tuesdays-with-morrie-by-mitch-albom/(Random House), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuesdays_with_Morrie(Wikipedia).

The Memoir: https://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

Mitch Albom: http://mitchalbom.com/(official website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/14310(Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0207805/(Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitch_Albom (Wikipedia).

Tuesdays with Morrie (2002 Off-Broadway play): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=3809 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://www.mitchalbom.com/theater/#tuesdays(author’s website), and http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/1820 (Internet Off-Broadway Database).

The Script: https://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/study-guides/tuesdays-with-morrie-study-guide (Utah Shakespeare Festival).

Tuesdays with Morrie (1999 TV movie): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0207805/(Internet Movie Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuesdays_with_Morrie_(film)(Wikipedia).

Jeffrey Hatcher: http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/109903(Internet Broadway Database), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/3734(Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0368774/(Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Hatcher (Wikipedia).

Andy Hayworth (Cary, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/thehayworth (Facebook page) and https://twitter.com/thehayworth (Facebook page).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Shannon Plummer-White is no stranger to the stage! She studied Musical Theater & Opera at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City, and has appeared in films such as Iron Man 3 and Safe Haven. She has also performed with the North Carolina Master Chorale and the North Carolina Symphony. When she isn’t on stage or making magic behind the scenes, she can be found in the art studio playing with fire and molten glass. She is an animal advocate with a special love of cats. She has four rescued fur children and a very supportive husband. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews