Michael Kissin as Morrie Schwartz, left, and David Blais as Mitch Albom in "Tuesdays with Morrie" at Acadia Repertory Theatre, which opens June 26. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ACADIA REPERTORY THEATRE

Get out your handkerchiefs: Acadia Rep opens with tear jerker

Theater lovers rejoice! After a cold winter in Minnesota and an eviction from their costume storage here in January, Andrew Mayer and Cheryl Willis have returned to open up their 12th summer season at Acadia Repertory Theatre.

The season opener, which runs June 26 to July 8, is an adaption of Mitch Albom’s bestselling book “Tuesdays with Morrie.”

“We have the luxury of being able to choose our plays to suit our actors,” Mayer said, “and we have the perfect two actors to take on these roles.”

Those actors are Acadia Rep veterans David Blais and Mike Kissin, who have appeared in numerous productions and have become audience favorites here.

“These two have become good friends over the years, so they really don’t have to dig terribly deep to convincingly portray these two friends.”

Perhaps a little more unusual is the fact that they had the perfect playwright, fellow Minnesotan Jeffery Hatcher, to adapt the novel for the stage.

“We have performed several of Jeff’s plays here, and it’s always a good fit,” said Mayer.

Hatcher recently wrote the screenplay for “Mr. Holmes,” which starred Ian McKellen, and is currently working on another screenplay for McKellen.

“[He’s] working at the top of his game, and this play is a fine example of that,” Mayer said.

“Tuesdays with Morrie” is the true story of journalist Mitch Albom, who reconnected with his old college professor and mentor Morrie Schwartz after learning Schwartz had been diagnosed with ALS.

The play follows Albom’s weekly visits with the professor, which turn out to be an educational experience for the younger man that surpasses anything he learned in college.

The book was a breakout bestseller for Albom, and Mayer said Hatcher’s adaption preserves all of the book’s poignancy without being overly sentimental.

Frank Bachman, most often associated with Mount Desert Island High School productions, is directing the two-man show.

He said it has been a singular pleasure working with such seasoned actors.

“Andrew and Cheryl have set me up with the perfect situation,” Bachman said. “Mike and David are both pros, and I’ve been learning some techniques from them I can take back to my students.

“But,” he said, “it goes both ways. There are things I bring to the table that I’ve discovered while working with my students.”

This extended mentor-mentee dynamic seems particularly appropriate with this opening play.

Costuming, which was a pretty sore subject last winter when the theater had to move decades’ worth of dresses, suits, shoes, hats, purses, props etc. from a storage unit in Southwest Harbor to a temporary space in Ellsworth, should be a happier topic with Jaylene Roths coming on board to design costumes and dress the rep actors.

“We haven’t seen Jaylene’s work yet,” said Willis, “but we’ve heard wonderful things about her. “I’m just sorry she’s going to have to be rummaging through boxes rather than a proper costume wardrobe.”

Willis said they are still looking for a permanent home for their collection.

They thought they might have found such a place at the old A.V. Higgins store in Somesville, but it turns out the area is not zoned for storage.

“We’d have to apply to get a zoning change or special permit,” Willis said, “and that would likely take months.”

“Tuesdays with Morrie” opens Tuesday, June 26, and runs Tuesdays through Sundays at 8:15 p.m. except on July 4. The closing on Sunday, July 8, is a 2 p.m. matinee.

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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