Margaret Edson’s play Wit, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Best New Play Award in 1999, tells the story of a university English professor who is dying of ovarian cancer. On its most profound level, it’s about the lofty philosophical and emotional concerns that one might be called upon to address at death’s door – like the importance of establishing bonds with other humans in a lifetime, rather than just obsessing over abstruse intellectual points like the prosody of John Donne. (Donne’s Holy Sonnet X, “Death Be Not Proud,” is a recurring motif in the play.)
But on a more practical level, Wit is about the nitty-gritty of oncology and terminal care: chemotherapy, hospitalization, pain management, Do Not Resuscitate orders, Power of Attorney, being treated like a “case” instead of a person by doctors and interns. Anyone who has stood beside a loved one dying of cancer will recognize the issues underpinning the drama; the play should resonate with many, and serve as a cautionary tale for those who haven’t yet been there, done that.
So it’s most appropriate that the Mohonk Mountain Stage Company (MMSC) Readers’ Theatre is bringing back its successful production of Wit for one more performance this Saturday, and making it a benefit for the Linda Young Ovarian Cancer Support Program of Health Alliance of the Hudson Valley. The mission of the Linda Young program is to offer financial and emotional support to women in our community who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and to educate health care professionals and the public about symptoms of ovarian cancer.
The curtain at the McKenna Theatre on the SUNY-New Paltz campus goes up at 7:30 p.m. on May 4, but the performance will be preceded by a reception at 6:30. Following the one-acter, the MMSC cast, ovarian cancer survivors and oncology social workers will be on hand for a “Talk-Back” with the audience.
New York Magazine called Wit “a dazzling and humane play that you will remember till your dying day.” Christine Crawfis will star as Dr. Vivian Bearing, a role performed Off-Broadway in 1998 by Kathleen Chalfant, on Broadway in 2012 by Cynthia Nixon and on cable TV in 2001 by Emma Thompson.
Tickets for this special one-time encore benefit performance cost $25 general admission, $15 for students, seniors and active members of the Oncology Support Program. Purchase them by calling (845) 339-2071 or online at www.witlyoc.eventbrite.com. For more information about the Oncology Support Program, please call (845) 339-2071.
Wit by Margaret Edson, Mohonk Mountain Stage Company, Saturday, May 4, 6:30 p.m. reception, 7:30 performance/discussion, $25/$15, McKenna Theatre, SUNY-New Paltz, 1 Hawk Drive, New Paltz; (845) 339-2071, www.witlyoc.eventbrite.com.