BY Mario Gonzalez | THE RIDER
As someone who knew nothing about the play, “Wit,” leaving the theater while drying out a few teardrops from my eyes signifies how impactful it was for me.
Directed by Chris Ikner, the famous play by American playwright Margaret Edson opened the 53rd season of the Camille Playhouse Sept. 2 in Brownsville. The plot centers on Vivian Bearing (portrayed by Ana Laura Chavez), a university literature professor diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
As a patient in a hospital, Vivian is supervised by Dr. Harvey Kelekian, played by Ricky Garza, and mostly by his assistant and her former student Dr. Jason Posner (William Abete).
Dr. Harvey notifies Vivian that her cancer will require an experimental chemotherapeutic treatment. As the play progresses, the audience sees how Vivian becomes less of a patient and more of a research tool in the eyes of the doctors.
Garza portrays Kelekian as a cold and strict doctor in a way that made me realize how much of a business the medical industry can be sometimes. In contrast to Dr. Kelekian’s time on stage, Dr. Posner takes a more active role in the development of the narrative. Abete’s performance as a younger and at times awkward doctor made for a couple of comedic moments between him and Vivian, which allowed for a balance in the tone of the play.
During her time in the hospital, Vivian reflects about mortality and the meaning of her life. She references the sonnets of her favorite English poet, John Donne, multiple times as it becomes clear to her that she had been living a lonely life devoted to her academic work. During her last days in the hospital, she realizes the importance of building meaningful relationships.
Throughout the play, the audience sees how the progression of the illness influences how Vivian reflects about her life as a whole. The scenes take place in her hospital room and by flashbacks to some of her memories.
In her flashbacks, Vivian speaks to her literature mentor, E.M. Ashford, played by Kathy Raines. She recalls the time her mentor criticized the structure of one of her papers. In another scene, we see a flashback to a 5-year-old Vivian reading a tale with her father. In it, we see Vivian struggle to understand the meaning of a word. Her father, also played by Ricky Garza, explains its meaning and she is able to understand the tale with clarity. She remembers it as the foundation of her love for words.
One of her most recent flashbacks takes place in her classroom. Here, we see Vivian taking on the role of a tough professor as she is seen questioning the intellect of some of her students.
Her lonely life serves as a lesson for the audience to re-evaluate the importance of developing bonds with the people we care for.
I was touched by the last moments of the play. Ana Laura Chavez left me positively captivated throughout the entire play. I will not reveal any details of the final act but I believe it will impact anyone who sees it.
The play closed on Sept. 11, but the Camille Playhouse has six more productions this season. The next one is “The Addams Family,” which opens Oct. 21. For more information, visit camilleplayhouse.net/shows.