The Seeing Place Theater
January 2, 2022
|Photo courtesy of The Seeing Place Theater|
The Seeing Place Theater production of Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize winning Play Wit is now playing at Paradise Factory in the East Village. Brynn Asha Walker skillfully directed this production with a clear comprehension of Ms. Edson’s intention. The audience experiences the sever, experimental cancer treatment the main character undergoes, allowing them to walk away with a new perspective. Erin Cronican takes on this tough leading character with grace and integrity.
Dr. Vivian Bearing (played by Erin Cronican), a professor of English and expert on the metaphysical sonnets of John Donne, receives a diagnosis of stage four ovarian cancer. Under the advice of her doctor (played by Brynn Asha Walker, u.s.), she immediately begins an intense, experimental chemotherapy treatment. One of her attending physicians, Dr. Jason Posner (played by Robin Friend), is a former student. He recognizes her immediately, and speaks highly of her proficiency and discipline. Vivian has only known the grueling and determined work required in her area of study, and has been diligent in living by it and impressing it upon her students. She is reminded of when she refused to give Jason an extension on his paper. The fact that he received a grade lower that he hoped for in her class still weighs on his mind. Vivian’s unwavering focus and dedication stems from the discipline she learned from her mentor, Professor E.M. Ashford (played by Janice Hall). As Vivian comes to the realization of the need for kindness, she allows herself to lean on her attending nurse, Susie Monahan, (played by Brynn Asha Walker).
There is an urgency in this play, as expressed by the main character in the opening monologue. She states that she has only two hours to live. She needs to come to terms with this, and does so by analyzing her life in the same way she solves the mysteries of the poems of John Donne. Because of this approach, Dr. Vivian Bearing is a very challenging role. She is highly intellectual and emotional detached, yet must be sympathetic to the audience. Erin Cronican takes time to portray the vulnerability of this character. She exposes Vivian’s thought process, allowing the audience to get inside her head and understand what makes her tick. Ms. Cronican makes insightful choices that allow the audience to empathize with Vivian. They are on her side, rooting for her well-being. Without this, the valuable message in Ms. Edson’s play would be missed.
This cast plays the irony of numerous moments during the story, which brings out the humor in the writing. Although not comical, this humor gives the audience a chance to relieve the tension that builds throughout the action. Director Brynn Asha Walker guides the cast in finding these important moments, which keep the play moving at its required pace and the audience’s attention consistently engaged.
With the exception of Ms. Cronican, the cast plays more than one role, covering for one other in case of Covid related absences. Janice Hall plays Professor E.M. Ashford with diligent focus. Robin Friend is clinical and impersonal as Dr. Jason Posner. Brynn Asha Walker portrays Susie Monahan with heart and knowledge.The Seeing Place Theater production of Wit is running at Paradise Factory (64 E. 4th St.) through January 16. Although the theater is small, much attention is given to keeping the space safe for the audience. Don’t miss Erin Cronican’s riveting performance.