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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents Cynthia Nixon in "Wit" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents Cynthia Nixon in "Wit" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

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Manhattan Theatre Club
(Wit Website)

By Margaret Edson

Lynn Meadow, Artistic Director
Barry Grove, Exec. Producer

Directed by Lynne Meadow

At the
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street

Cynthia Nixon
Pun Bandhu, Suzanne Bertish, Michael Countryman,
Jessica Dickey, Chiké Johnson, Greg Keller,
Cara Patterson, Zachary Spicer

Scenic Design: Santo Loquasto
Costume Design: Jennifer von Mayrhauser
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Design: Jill BC Du Boff
Production Stage Manager: Barclay Stiff
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Artistic Producer: Mandy Greenfield
Director of Artistic Development: Jerry Patch
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Production Manager: Joshua Helman
Artistic Line Producer: Lisa McNulty
Casting: Nancy Piccione

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 29, 2012 Matinee

The audience was sobbing at the conclusion of this weekend matinee, so many drawn into intimate disclosures and personal conversations, openly bonding with the desolate mortality of Cynthia Nixon’s character, Vivian Bearing, Ph.D. Ms. Nixon is onstage over one and one-half hours with shaved head, hospital gown, IV’s, scanning machines, a doctor who was her English student, a nurse who protects her end life wishes, and a mentor who cradles her as she dies. Ms. Nixon is courageously and brutally bare, psychically and physically, and in incredible good humor, the wit that masks the dread. The university hospital that serves as setting is connected to the university where Professor Bearing is a renowned specialist in the poetry of John Donne, and the audience listens to Ms. Nixon’s recitation of Donne’s metaphysically composed “Death Be Not Proud”…“Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.”

Ms. Nixon’s character is dying from terminal ovarian cancer, final stage, and she has suffered alone through every possible sustaining treatment. A baseball cap covers her baldness until the end, and her eyes are wide and deep. Ms. Nixon gazes into the audience, as she breaks down the fourth wall and tells us in eloquent rapidity about her fascinating and persistent illness. Dr. Bearing takes an educated interest in her symptoms, treatment, and prognosis, but her wishes for the finality of it all are clear. Dr. Jason Posner (Greg Keller), who had struggled through Dr. Bearing’s poetry assignments, now has control of her pain and very breathing. They meet each other head on in the final minutes. Dr. Posner is conducting research, and he and his team need subjects to radiate, x-ray, examine, and discuss. The conflicts of privacy and choice versus research and discovery are woven into late conversations between Dr. Bearing and her nurse, Susie Monahan (Carra Patterson). The early conversations had flowed with dark humor, the construct of a sonnet, observations of inner thoughts.

Vividly, I was left with Dr. Bearing’s nurse asking if she wanted her to call a relative or friend to be with her during the impending, excruciating pain, and Dr. Bearing flatly refused. But, Suzanne Bertish, as Dr. Ashford, an early English literature mentor, arrived like a deus ex machina. Lynne Meadow directed this Manhattan Theatre Club production for gripping connections between Ms. Nixon and the audience. The chemistry was palpable. Santo Loquasto, a scenic designer nonpareil, created the chilling hospital setting. Peter Kaczorowski designed the harsh lighting that spotlights the unforgiving machinery and tubes. Margaret Edson has created an exemplary play. Kudos to Cynthia Nixon, and kudos to all.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at