by Rita Charleston
An old man, a young man and life’s greatest lesson. This is the basis of “Tuesdays With Morrie,” a play by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom, based on the book by newspaper sports columnist Albom and being staged July 10-29 at Ambler’s Act II Playhouse, 56 E. Butler Ave. Albom recounts the time spent with Morrie Schwartz, a 78-year-old retired sociology professor at Brandeis University who is dying from ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Schwartz realizes that his time is running out and that he must share his wisdom on “The Meaning of Life” with the world before it’s too late.
Enter Mitch Albom, a former student of Schwartz who had not seen him for years but whose life will always be changed because of their rekindled relationship. In this play Tom Teti plays Morrie, and Sean Close is seen as Mitch. Upon seeing a TV spot featuring his old mentor and learning he is dying, Mitch makes contact with Morrie, and the two begin visiting every Tuesday. “Morrie begins to teach Mitch, who has become enamored with material wealth and professional success above all else, how to change his priorities,” Close explained, “insisting that ‘Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.’”
There are so many wonderful lessons to be learned from this play, which is directed by Matt Silva, Close continued: “I like the fact that Morrie explains that joy and sadness exist together. As we live, we all have to experience some sadness, but the fact is that we also experience much joy, sometimes both attached to the same moment.” Close also likes the fact that he and Teti worked together once before, and through this presentation they are developing an even closer friendship. “Tom makes me laugh a lot. He’s super funny. He’s also much wiser than he lets on, but in this play as Morrie, he gets to show that wisdom.”
Close, the son of a retired Episcopal priest, grew up in South Jersey, making his main foray into theatrics while appearing in his high school’s presentation of “The Pirates of Penzance.” And although he says he enjoyed the rehearsal process and the kinship formed with other members of the play, he thought of the whole experience merely as nothing more than a hobby.
So after high school, off he went to college at William and Mary in Virginia to pursue a degree in social work. “But soon I began to get very active in the theater department, appearing in more and more productions. I wanted to finish getting my degree, but soon afterward a friend and I decided to move to a different city. Since we didn’t want to go to New York and some other friends of ours were moving to Philly, we decided that might be the right move for us, too.”
And it was. Now 29 years old, living in Manayunk and about to be married, Close has made the Philadelphia theater scene his own. While making his debut at Act II, he has appeared at many local theaters including Quintessence Theater Group, 1812 Productions, the Arden Theater Company, Montgomery Theater and more.
When he’s not on stage, Close keeps busy with many other activities, including teaching improvisation to high schoolers at Germantown Friends School and driving for Uber and Lyft. “Most freelance actors have to do any number of other things when not on stage,” Close said, “but luckily, I have quite a full season coming up and hope to spend my time acting, writing and teaching. I am very happy here in Philly and with the place I’ve carved out for myself here.”
For ticket information, call 215-654-0200.