Cynthia Nixon In Wit: My Review

Categories: Theater

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Margaret Edson's Pulitzer-winning 1995 play Wit finally makes it to Broadway in a Lynne Meadow-directed production starring Cynthia Nixon as a poetry professor named Vivian Bearing who's bearing a lot, actually.

Vivian has been diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer, and as she embarks on eight rounds of chemo, she's drolly noticing that her medical helpers are a little chilly and clinical, much as she's been in her entire teaching career (though at least she knows what "soporific" means).

Nixon enters, addressing the audience in a hospital gown, a baseball cap, and an IV, and it doesn't feel like ideal casting because it seems to take work for her to pull off the hauteur and remoteness. It feels like someone playing a role.

But once she's fully immersed in Vivian's challenges, Nixon digs under her skin and takes it to commanding extremes, whether offering mordant observations, dissecting word meanings, screaming in pain, or yelping in resignation.

Also affecting is Suzanne Bertish as a teacher of Vivian's (seen in a flashback) who ends up cradling her former pupil on her deathbed and reading her a children's tale about a bunny making peace with his own existence.

And Carra Patterson is brilliantly understated as the nurse who offers Vivian an ice pop and some humanity before thuggish medics swarm in and step all over the moment.

Edson's play is full of provocative thought about literature, medicine, research, education, and mind-versus-body.

At the heart of the production, Cynthia Nixon winds up infusing Wit with an intelligence and feeling that give this dissertation on death the life it deserves.


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16 comments
Musto
Musto

By the way, doing this play was Cynthia's choice.

Southern Dave
Southern Dave

Patrick Dennis' Belle Poitrine said the word "soporific" had been coined to describe one of her films and several of her own performances. She assumed it combined the words "super" and "terrific."

Gregorama
Gregorama

Sounds like she does a fine job.  I'm afraid to go see it, for a strange reason:  When the 2001 television version of the play with Emma Thompson came out, I watched it--while on a promising first date.  I was so moved by it (especially the bunny book scene) that for the first--and only--time in my adult life, I started sobbing completely out of control!  I was so embarassed that I never saw the guy again...not that he was exactly ringing my phone off the hook!  I don't know why, but that play really struck something in me very profoundly...and I'd better not risk such a  fit of hysteria in public again.

Melinda9
Melinda9

She has a nice head. They did a piece on this on NPR last night and I know what you mean that when she first comes on stage she sounds awkward, but then later seems to find her voice. Desperately wish I could see it, but I'm broke.

mjm
mjm

I smell a Tony nom...

Corey Andrew
Corey Andrew

What a wonderful review.  I missed Judith Light in this play so this is a great chance to see finally.

Bwaybill
Bwaybill

Sounds like Cynthia's doing better as this teacher than she did as Jean Brodie.

Dar5
Dar5

Sounds amazing. I might try it if it's on TDF.

Cass Quinn
Cass Quinn

aaaaaaaahahahahhahahahaha. yeah, good one (sincerely).

Musto
Musto

In the play, Cynthia's character asks the nurse if a drug she's getting is a soporific. "I don't know," replies the nurse, "but it'll help you go to sleep." Funny moment.

Gregorama
Gregorama

I would ask you out on a date to go see it, Mel, but would you be prepared for the consequences?

Prezdent Obama
Prezdent Obama

I smell Cindy Nixon's fishy crotch!

...nit wit is more like it for dat bitch.

Jen
Jen

Well, the real hilarity is in someone calling themselves "tricky dick nixon" in 2012. REALLY WITTY STUFF!!

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