The Faerie Queene this is not, says Dr. Vivian Bearing in the stage production Wit, warning theater-goers of her battle with advanced ovarian cancer that will play out before them.
Though the subject matter is somber, playwright Margaret Edson injects her lead character with the titular humor and observation so that sharing her journey is a bonding, almost jovial experience.
"Though it may be somewhat of a heavy subject matter, you will laugh," said Christine MacLellan, associate manager of the Home Made Theater. "It's not a play about death " it's a play about living your life."
Still, MacLellan warns that this play is not for all theater-goers. "There is certainly nothing offensive in it, but the subject matter is very mature," she said.
Wit begins with Vivian, portrayed by Michelle Summerlin-Yergan, addressing the audience. Prior to her hospitalization, she says, she was Professor Bearing, teacher and scholar, specializing in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne. Vivian takes the audience to various scenes in the past and present that illuminate her achievements in the world of scholarship and show what happens to her as she is treated with aggressive chemotherapy for eight months. What the audience sees is what Vivian herself perceives, said MacLellan, so reality is skewed according to character's experience.
As Vivian undergoes a series of tests and procedures in the sterile hospital environment, she takes the audience back 20 years to an encounter with her graduate school professor, E.M. Ashford, after which she decides that nothing will stop her from becoming a top-notch scholar and that her chosen area of study will be one of the toughest, the poetry of John Donne. She also recalls the moment in her childhood with her father when she first fell in love with reading and with words. While in her hospital bed, Vivian recalls her life in the classroom, where she was known as a spell-binding lecturer and a demanding teacher of literature. Ironically, one of her doctors, Jason, is a former student and now a budding researcher in his own profession, having been inspired by Vivian's uncompromising scholarship.