Pulitzer Prize-winning play explores cancer’s impact

Pulitzer Prize-winning play explores cancer’s impact

By Liliana Piña, news correspondent

The lights dimmed and a hush instantly fell over the intimate crowd. Seconds later the lights came back on, revealing a woman in a hospital gown. Clutching onto her IV, she ambled around the makeshift stage. Her shaved head and frail appearance immediately answered any questions about what her illness was: Cancer.

On Nov. 4, 2016, the Hub Theatre Company of Boston debuted their production of “Wit,” written by Margaret Edson. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize, “Wit” tells the story of Vivian Bearing, Ph.D, a woman who is diagnosed with stage-four ovarian cancer. Too far gone to be healed, Vivian embarks on a journey through her past to find meaning in her present and future. The show delved into very pertinent issues, such as the rights of the dying and the true value of knowledge.

“It made me think about death and that you really should look at it that we triumph over death and not the other way around, and it really does make that beautiful,” said Marshall Williams, a 63-year-old audience member.

Though heavy at times, “Wit” lightens the mood with its sharp humor.

“This is the sort of play where the audience needs permission to laugh because of the subject matter,” said John Geoffrion, the director. “That sort of thing is necessary in a play like this, where you have to have something to release that tension.”

Though the topic of cancer is one many people can relate to and has been thoroughly explored through various entertainment media, theatre provides a unique outlet to explore and capture its dynamic.

“There’s nothing like [theatre] to make you think about an issue like this. It’s so immediate,” Williams said. “A movie wouldn’t deal with something like this that way. This really just makes it more alive. You don’t get that with anything else.”

“Wit,” a pay-what-you-can production, has been very successful in bringing in crowds thus far, according to the director.

“We’ve been really pleasantly surprised by the generosity of people. We took a risk with this sort of business model and it’s paying off,” Geoffrion said. “Our audience response so far has been tremendous and our ticket sales so far have been ridiculous, really. This is probably going to be one of the first shows where we sell out every performance.”

The Hub Theatre Company of Boston is also collecting children’s books at the event, which will be distributed to local charities. This is not only a tribute to the play’s protagonist, who reads a child’s book as she passes away, but a way for the theatre company to give back to the community.

“Boston theater is a phenomenally warm community with a lot of support between artists and around the work that we do and it’s been a really wonderful process,” said Liz Adams, the lead actress playing Bearing. “It’s a pleasure looking at the achievements of my colleagues. They’re doing incredibly great work too. You feel like you feed off each other and it just keeps on growing.”

Theatre shapes much of the city’s artistic community, according to the cast and crew. Adams appreciates how it allows people to connect, and brings complete strangers together under the most unique circumstances, to share an experience together that can’t be replicated.

“Theatre is always a conversation,” Adams said. “I love to have as many voices in the conversation as possible.”

“Wit” will be in performance at First Church Boston through Nov. 19.

Photo Courtesy Tim Gurczak, Hub Theatre Company of Boston

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