Lessons on life and death, love and friendship in ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ from NYC’s Sea Dog Theater

Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom from the latter’s1997  best-selling book of the same name, Tuesdays with Morrie (which was seen as a made-for-TV movie in 1999, and made its Off-Broadway stage debut in 2002) tells the heartwarming autobiographical story of the career-driven sports writer’s weekly visits with Morrie Schwartz, his former sociology professor at Brandeis University, who is dying of ALS, and the valuable lessons learned from him in this affecting “last class.” Presented in the chantry of NYC’s historic St. George’s Episcopal Church by Sea Dog Theater, the lofty but intimate space is the perfect setting for the end-of-life reflections that elevate the importance of human connection, love, and friendship, and making the most of whatever time you have.

Chris Domig and Len Cariou. Photo by Jeremy Varner.

Under the direction of Erwin Maas, the meaningful two-hander with music, starring Len Cariou as Morrie and Chris Domig as Mitch, maintains a sensitive balance of humor, wisdom, and poignancy, as it moves back and forth between direct-address narration and re-enacted memories of the time they spent together. As we enter the performance space, Mitch is seated at a central grand piano, playing what he had a passion for in his youth, when he aspired to becoming a professional jazz musician (original music written and performed on piano by the multi-talented Domig) and almost dropped his sociology class. Morrie enters and sits beside him on the piano bench, clearly enjoying the music and spirit of camaraderie.

Thus begins Mitch’s story of how he came to bond with his favorite professor and mentor, whom he called “Coach,” ended up taking every one of his courses, and, upon his departure at graduation, hugged him, gave him an “extra credit” kiss on the forehead, and promised to stay in touch. He didn’t. But sixteen years later, in 1995, after serendipitously seeing Morrie discussing his terminal battle with ALS in an appearance on Ted Koppel’s TV news program Nightline, he decided to call, was persuaded to visit, reconnected with the always welcoming, positive, and life-affirming teacher, and continued to fly in every Tuesday (the same day as his original class and office hours with him) for the remainder of his life.

Chris Domig and Len Cariou. Photo by Jeremy Varner.

As the weeks pass by, we see the physical decline of Morrie, who suffers progressive pain, difficulty in breathing and moving, inability to care for himself, and occasional bouts of crying, anger, and yelling, but still imparts the wisdom and insights he gained through his seven decades of experience, answering Mitch’s weekly list of questions, discussing his own background and attitudes towards family, forgiveness, aging, a life/work balance, and his love of teaching, and planning for his imminent death, with his uplifting attitude, joking (e.g., referring to Koppel as “Fred” not Ted), and zest for life still intact, and a palpable joy in his renewed relationship with his protégé. Cariou embodies it all with irresistible charm and believability, in a thoroughly empathetic performance that brought tears to the eyes of the audience and elicited audible sobs on his character’s passing.

Cariou’s masterful portrayal is well-matched by Domig’s equally compelling characterization of Mitch and his journey, capturing his evolution from an initially reticent, emotionally guarded, obsessive workaholic to a more open and vulnerable loving friend and husband, who becomes a reliable presence, partner in conversation (which he tape-recorded for posterity), and devoted caregiver, assisting Morrie in his wheelchair and at his bedside, bringing him lunch, keeping his promise to be there for him in spite of his busy schedule, introducing him to his wife, returning to his passion for the piano, at Morrie’s urging, after not playing for years, and, fortunately for theatergoers, paying glowing tribute to him in his memoir on their life-changing relationship. The chemistry between them (both the characters and the actors) is unmistakable and their effect on one another is unforgettable in these very human performances.

Chris Domig and Len Cariou. Photo by Jeremy Varner.

Supporting them is vocalist Sally Shaw, providing the expressive voice of Mitch’s unseen wife, a singer, who performs a sublime rendition of the tender 1934 standard “The Very Thought of You,” with sound by Eamon Goodman. Guy de Lancey’s everyday costumes and minimal set, with just a piano, walker, and wheelchair, are realistic and unassuming while defining the essential elements of the story, just as his lighting brings focus to the characters and the moods, immeasurably heightened by the majesty of the surrounding ecclesiastical architecture.

I would like to end by noting that this show is very personal for me, having lost two dear friends to ALS. My review is dedicated to them – Nurse Thomas Bell and DC Metro Theater Arts Founding Editor-in-Chief and Publisher Joel Markowitz, both of whom remain loving reminders of the importance of staying close to those you care about and letting them know how much they mean to you and what they taught you, while you can. Those timeless lessons are beautifully delivered in Sea Dog’s deeply moving production of Tuesdays with Morrie.

Running Time: Approximately 95 minutes, without intermission.

Tuesdays with Morrie plays through Saturday, April 20, 2024, at Sea Dog Theater, performing at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 209 East 16th Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $55 general admission, $35 seniors, $20 students, including fees), go online.


  1. Due to critical acclaim and sold-out performances, Sea Dog Theater has announced a three-week extension, April 1-20, for Tuesdays with Morrie.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here