Monday, March 4, 2002
It's rare that a community this size has an actor who can carry an uninterrupted, two-hour show. But Lawrence Community Theatre and director Penny Weiner have discovered such a talent in Sandra Gray.
Gray, a professional actress and associate professor of anthropology at Kansas University, takes hold of Vivian Bearing in "Wit" and embraces every raw emotion and every scholarly thought the woman has during her diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer.
The play, by Margaret Edson, is laced with drama, humor and a not-so-subtle commentary about modern medical care and research.
We come to know Bearing first as a demanding university teacher who has used her research into the metaphysical poet John Donne as an excuse to distance herself from others. She wards off the fear that would naturally come after a cancer diagnosis by being "tough" and by holding on to the notion that she is a specimen aiding someone else's research. But as her pain increases and death approaches, Bearing, with a broken spirit and broken body, begins to doubt the decisions she has made during her life and allows her vulnerability ï¿½ the thing that makes her most human ï¿½ to finally come to fruition.
Gray, who starred in "Wit" about a year ago at Washburn University, embodies Bearing so well that it is difficult to imagine they aren't the same person after the lights go down ï¿½ the highest compliment anyone could give an actress. The intimacy of the small theater and the original, sometimes haunting music of Karl Ramberg add to the play's effectiveness.
Lawrence Community Theatre has a winner with "Wit." The play continues at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through March 16.