There is plenty to think about with American playwright Margaret Edson’s play WIT written in 1995 and which took out the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1999.

Our lives are fashioned by the choices we make, on all sorts of levels.

WIT works almost like a parable. The protagonist Vivian Bearing is a Professor of Literature with her specialisation in the writings of the great British poet John Donne. Bearing has risen through the academic ranks through her fierce intellect. Being very cerebral and regimented in nature, she has had a reputation for being very strict and emotionally detached from  her students. Her life has been devoted to her career, hasn’t had a major relationship, and hasn’t remained connected to anyone in her life.

Then, one day, after feeling ill she goes to the Doctor. After investigations she is is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, her first major crisis. At first, she copes well and thinks that with the best medical care an her will power and she will overcome.

As Vivian’s body and mind fall apart, her outlook on life dramatically shifts. She longs for a more sensitive approach and then reflects on her own detached, insensitive, clinical approach. She also sees this clinical approach in the medical staff who attend to her in hospital.

At one point she says, ‘‘Now is not the time for verbal swordplay, for unlikely flights of imagination and wildly shifting perspectives, for metaphysical conceit, for wit…I thought that being extremely smart would take care of it. But I see that I have been found out. Ooooh..Nothing would be worse than a detailed scholarly analysis…Now is the time for, dare I say it, kindness.”

There is a Belgian proverb that goes, “Experience is the comb that life gives you after you have lost your hair.“ It kind of describes Vivian’s experience.

WIT is well directed by Helen Tonkin. Tonkin’s staging works well, working with set and lighting designer Victor Kalka and sound design by Adam Jones.

The performances are quality. Cheryl Ward is in the zone as the tough Professor with lives in her intellect and has devoted her life to her career with  nothing else to show in her life.

Yannick Lawry played the harsh Dr Harvey Kelekianm head of  the oncology department at the University Hospital. He and Vivian share an unrelenting work effort but their relationship sours when Vivian sees that Dr Kelekianm doesn’t care how bad the sick effects that she suffers from with his radical treatment. Lawry also plays Vivian’s late father in one of the play’s flashback sequences.

Hayley McQueen plays the late twenties primary care nurse Sue. Sue is not academically minded but is an excellent nurse and gives Vivian TLC.

The director, Helen Tonkin, also plays the role of retired English literature Professor E.M.Ashford who was Vivian’s mentor in graduate school. She fostered Vivian’s relentless work ethic, though she did encourage Vivian to socialise, something which Vivian didn’t follow up on.l

Kyra Belford-Thomas plays the young medical fellow, Dr Jessica Posner. Coincidentally she was once a student of Vivian’s whilst she was an undergraduate. Similarly to Vivian she has a strong work ethic. At one point she confides to  Vivian that she much prefers working in a research lab to having to relate to relationship.

Rounding out the cast were  Joseph Tanti as a Lab Technician, Student and resident, and Sayuri Narroway as a lab technician, a student and a resident.

Margaret Edson’s WIT is a production by the Clock and Spiel Company, with previous productions that include Freud’s Last Session, Metamorphosis and The Screwtape Letters. whose goal is create theatre that touches mind, body and spirit.

WIT played Glen Street Theatre between 29th February and 2nd March 2024.

Following on from its season at the Glen Street Theatre, WIT is having a season at the Riverside Theatres Parramatta tonight (Wednesday 6th March), Thursday 7th March, Friday 8th March and a matinee and evening performance on the 9th March 2024.

PLAYWRIGHT : Margaret Edson.DIRECTOR : Helen Tonkin. CREATIVES : Set and  Lighting Design : Victor Kalka, Sound Design : Adam Jones. CAST Cheryl Ward, Kyra Belford-Thomas, Yannick Lawry, Hailey McQueen, Helen Tonkin, Sayuri Narroway, Joseph Tanti. Production  Company : ClockandSpiel Productions.