Lofty Production of W;t Provides Scholarly Insight into Cancer Journey

By Deanna Walz

W;t, Lofte Community Theatre, Friday, May 5, 2023

The Lofte Theatre in Manley is well known for its fun, frothy comedies like Doublewide, Texas and Noises Off (which I had the pleasure of acting in this past fall.) Pulitzer Prize winning, W;t, written by Margaret Edson is something completely different. Funny, dry, cerebral and full of emotion, this one-act play focuses on university English professor Dr. Vivian Bearing who is dying from ovarian cancer. Heavy stuff. And so, so good. 

Much like her beloved 17th century poet John Donne, Dr. Bearing relies on language as a mask to separate her from the rest of the world. Her character is cold, distant and tough — although perhaps the label of tough is forced upon her by her research-focused doctors. At first, I found her unlikable. Her use of complex language to describe herself, her history, and her diagnosis made it difficult to relate to her. Once Dr. Bearing starts to feel the effects of the full doses of chemotherapy, the cracks of humanity start showing, and Omaha native Jennifer Gilg does a phenomenal job of letting us in behind the facade.

The entire play rests on Gilg’s shoulders and bald head. Her nuanced take on Dr. Bearing was heartbreaking as we watched her become more and more vulnerable during her cancer journey. Sharing the awkwardness of a humiliating pelvic exam by a former student. Finding humor between bouts of vomiting from chemo. Her moments of pain were visceral and her moments of connection as she was nearing the end, sharing a popsicle with her nurse, were touching and poignant.

The rest of the cast provided a strong foundation for Gilg to create her impressive performance. Bill Bossman played the strong, authoritative Dr. Kelekian. Marcus Manley’s adorkable oncology research fellow Jason Posner provided some awkward comedic moments. I really loved Roz Parr’s believable performance as Susie Monahan, the primary nurse who saw the humanity of Dr. Bearing before anyone else did.

This is a very cerebral and lofty play (pun intended.) It deserves an audience who will appreciate the language and material. In community theatre, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to view a production that will stick with you and make you think. W;t is a stellar production performed by a skilled and talented cast which will resonate with this reviewer for a long time.

If you go: W;t runs at the Lofte Community Theatre in Manley, May 6 at 7:00 p.m., May 7 at 2:00 p.m. May 11, 12 and 13 at 7:00 p.m. and May 14 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at $24.

Deanna Walz is the Director of Development and Marketing at Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln. She is currently on the board of the Lincoln Community Playhouse and is an actor, director and writer who loves live performances.

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