Even our newest readers know, if nothing else, this about me: I’m a theatre buff. I am the “wait on line at TKTS in the winter cold to see a matinee, sit through rush hour traffic to catch a certain musical, act in just about anything” kind of theatre buff. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that one of my favourite events on campus is Student Theatre Night at the REP. Thanks to the Honors Program and our awesome free tickets program for some of the best events on campus, my friend Brian and I got to see Wit last Thursday. Any attempt to express how excited I was about this would do my feelings injustice; I have wanted to see Wit for over a year.
Student Night at the REP actually starts with a meet-and-greet the hour before. The theatre buys snacks and drinks, and all the students get to mill around and chat with each other. There are also a handful of raffles; it turned out to be my lucky night in more ways than one, because in addition to seeing an astounding production, I won at $25 gift card to Deer Park! As someone who doesn’t win raffles very often (and who is made a laughing stock twice a year at family occasions that merit playing seemingly endless games of Bingo), that’s notable. Take that, Mom.
Wit itself is the remarkably beautiful tale of a 17th Century English Literature professor named Vivian Bearing, who discovers she is suffering – and in fact, all but dying – from Stage IV metastatic ovarian cancer. She agrees to an experimental and highly intensive chemotherapy regimen, consisting of eight rounds of radiation at full dosage, and the play details her life during these treatments as well as reveals a series of flashbacks which tell the tale of Vivian Bearing’s life before her illness.
It all sounds quite grim, doesn’t it? Imagine the audience’s surprise when Wit managed to have the room laughing within the first few lines. Vivian Bearing is a wonderfully sarcastic narrator, full of pithy references and comments that make her time in the hospital and her interactions with the people in it far more entertaining than we’d have expected.
What is even more captivating than the witticisms (pun intended!) of the comedic moments in the play is Vivian’s touching and deep character development. She begins Wit as a strong, confident woman who stands at the pinnacle of her field of research at the cost of human relationships. However, at the end of the play, Vivian is a shell of who she once was, and is left wishing she had more meaningful memories, more family and friends and kindness and compassion, to look back on.
I heard more than one person say that Wit “hit way too close to home for me,” and saw several people, like me, wiping tears from their eyes as they left the theatre. Wit really makes you think about where you stand right now, consider what matters to you, and imagine a life without those precious people in it. It was, in a word, stunning.