Comic, serious issues balanced in newest production

By Mia Proli Gable

Arizona Daily Wildcat

It's highly likely that a.k.a Theatre will reach it's $40,000 fund-raising goal by the end of Marvin's Room. The theater's latest production is a hit. Not only is the play acted superbly, but it is also incredibly well written.

Marvin's Room is a play about caring for the sick and dying. Bessie (Annette Hillman) has been caring for her sick father so long that she has forgotten that she has a sister. The two are reunited when Bessie discovers that she has leukemia and needs to find compatible bone marrow so that she can have a transplant.

On the surface, it appears that this could be just another sob story about death, but in reality, it is a hilarious journey into a world of caring and overcoming conflicts. Playwright Scott McPherson did an excellent job in writing Marvin's Room. There is just enough comedy to make it laughable, but not too much so that the serious issues are made light of.

Hillman's Bessie is a woman of sacrifice, who has one dress that she wears every time she goes into town. She moved to Florida from Ohio to care for her father, Marvin, who has been dying for 20 years, and her aunt, Ruth. Ruth (Marian Wald) was unable to walk until she got her "cure," an electrical device to ease

pain when she needs it and it also activates the garage door opener.

Lee (Meg Nolan) is Bessie's long-forgotten sister who lives in Ohio with her two sons, one of which, Hank (Chris Tisone), is in a mental institution for burning down the house. The two sisters did not part on good terms, so their reunion is shaky to begin with, which allows for comic tension, as well as a poignant glimpse of learning to care. Both Nolan and Hillman do an excellent job portraying these two different sisters who finally reconnect over coffee and alcohol in the kitchen at midnight.

Nolan and Hillman's performances are strongly supported by the rest of the cast. Wald's Ruth is quirky and slightly senile and the squeamish Dr. Wally makes complete sense when portrayed by K. Scott Coopwood. Tisone's tale-telling Hank starts off a little shaky, but by the end of the performance starts to really get into character and warm up to his Aunt Bessie, who appears to be the only one who ever listened.

Marvin's Room culminates in Disney World as Bessie's sickness becomes apparent and she realizes that there will be no chance of transplant, and no chance of a cure for her leukemia. But the play also ends with the discovery of love and the ability to care. These incidences turn the situation from hopeless to hopeful. The death of Bessie is immanent, but everyone has learned the importance of compassion and seem to realize that they can go on with life knowing that they truly loved someone.

Marvin's Room runs through April 23 at the a.k.a. Theatre. For reservations and more information call 623-7852.

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