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Wit - Acting Edition Paperback – May 1, 1999

5.0 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 72 pages
  • Publisher: Dramatists Play Service, Inc.; Acting ed. edition (May 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082221704X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822217046
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #201,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on November 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
I have never read such a beautiful play. Margaret Edson writes an intelligent treatment of a highly gifted John Donne scholar, Vivian Bearing, who enters a new life situation and finds herself completely inept spiritually. The new plane of existence is terminal cancer. If you are looking for an engaging plot, don't buy or read this play. This is a drama for the mind.
The play is also extremely witty (no pun intended). It's worldview is basically Christian, because of its resounding affirmation of the goodness of human life, and the brutalities wreaked by self-centredness. This drama also deals with the issue of what constitutes good scholarship. Is good scholarship just a "way of quantifying the complexities of the puzzle" (in the words of the young post-doc researcher, Jason Posner), or does good scholarship give us a vital way of answering old questions?
This is also a play in praise of simplicity. When Vivian Bearing is on her deathbed, she recoils in horror at the thought of her old professor reciting one of the Holy Sonnets. Instead, the wizened old professor reads Vivian a children's story, a little "allegory of the soul: Wherever you go God will find it." God finds Vivian's soul, but only after she has been stripped of her old pretentions and arrogance. I have never read such a beautiful literary depiction of genuine spiritual conversion (with the possible exception of Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov).
You cannnot call yourself a well-read person unless you've read this play. This drama will be read for centuries hence. You can also buy a good film version on Amazon, which was released in 2000, casting Emma Thompson as Vivian Bearing (one of her best roles, I believe), and the lovely, talented Audra McDonald as her primary nurse.
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Format: Paperback
Wit. A perfect name for a perfect play, yes, perfect! Margaret Edson's first foray into theater is a masterpiece which, she'll probably never out-do, but who cares. If you get a chance to see the play, do so, sell your teeth if you have to. I saw it at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco with Judith Light. What a powerful show! I had no idea what I was going to see, I walked out of the theatre, transformed. From the very start of the play when she says, "It is not my intention to give away the plot, but I think I die at the end." We know she's a force. Then at the end, when she finally throws away all the metaphysical conceit, the bantering about, and the complications of the meaning of life. When she finally adopts simplicity and kindness. When she throws off the IV, catheter, the cap covering her bald head, her hospital ID bracelet, and her gowns, and stands naked before us, reaching up, transformed. We know it's never to late, to change, to be transformed. And we find that in fact, along with Vivian, we are indeed transformed. We need to be loving, caring, and cherish what and who we have, and we know we will. We're gentler, better, transformed.
Vivian Bearing, a professor of seventeenth-century poetry, specializing in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne, has stage four, metastatic, ovarian cancer; there is no stage five. She's in the hospital throughout the play except in flashbacks to her college years, her childhood years, and her teaching years. She is a no-nonsense woman, steeping her life in the intricacies of metaphysical poetry. In her field she is "a force." We know she's a force because we can see it, or read it from the time she walks out on stage.
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Format: Paperback
Vivian is an English professor and an expert of John Donne's Holy Sonnets. Not being familiar with these sonnets, I found myself silently repeating the phrases in order to make sense what they meant. It was a great learning experience. Vivian is a quiet, comtemplative and lonely woman who enters the cold sterile world of medical research after being told she has ovarian cancer. Her perceptions of what she experiences are interwoven with her knowledge of literature. She is humorous and witty about what is said to her during her final stage of life. I loved this book and was fortunate to watch the play on HBO with Emma Thompson. Please read this and than watch the play. It is truly a great experience
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I am a college senior who is performing the role of Vivian in this beautiful play. From the first time I read the text, it resonated deeply with me on a highly personal level. The conflict that Vivian experiences between scholarship and humanity is beautifully resolved in this poignant (if slightly depressing) text. The interesting thing about Vivian is that she is not altogether a likable woman. She terrorizes her students, isolates herself from friends and family, never marries or has children, and is rather self-indulgent in the manner in which she talks endlessly about her academic endeavors and accomplishments.

However, behind the pages and pages of speech is a very deep connection to the poetry that Vivian found that simply eluded her with other people. She has such a brilliant and generative mind that when she says "the speaker of the sonnet has a brilliant mind, and he plays his part convincingly," we almost think she describes herself. Her dependence upon her scholarly work is so great that when she finally forms a connection to Susie, the light of sunshine in this story, it is heartbreaking that she must die soon after. Edson shows us that the most real of connections is not always where we think it will be (emphasis on "think"). Vivian says it herself - "My brain is dulling, and poor Susie's was never very sharp to begin with..." While everyone else in the text is intelligent, intellectual, scientific, Susie's sheer altruism and kindness are overwhelming for Vivian, who has never experienced love that way.

Playing this role has had an immense impact on both my thought process and my haircut, as I did shave my head for the part. I have also gained a great appreciation (apprecia-see-on!) for John Donne after this play, on whom I might not have otherwise spent much time. I highly recommend this play to anyone looking to see the ideas of life and death in a new way, to read something beautiful and emotional... to anyone, really.
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