A long overdue reunion can show us what keeps family members apart and what brings them back together. This theme is skillfully played out in the “dramedy” Marvin’s Room, which opens at the Wimberley Playhouse on February 8 for a three-week run. It is a poignant yet often comic tale of a family torn apart by illness. David Bisett, most recently seen as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, is director of Marvin’s Room for the Wimberley Players. Bisett is also president of the Players, and directed Blithe Spirit and Divorce Southern Style at the playhouse in 2007
Bessie, never married, is the designated at-home caregiver for her father, bedridden Marvin, who has been dying for almost two decades. Living with Bessie and creating more discord than help is her eccentric Aunt Ruth. Inept Dr. Wally, in the absence of Bessie’s regular doctor, tests her and informs her she has leukemia. Her best hope is a bone marrow transplant, but her only genetically related kinfolk are separated by many miles and an even greater emotional distance.
Fiercely independent younger sister Lee finally shows up with her sons, Hank and Charlie. Hank, who lives in a mental institution, didn’t even know he had an Aunt Bessie when he was dragged by his belligerent mother to Orlando. Charlie can hardly be pulled out of his geekiness to care what is happening.
Marvin’s Room shows that sometimes the people you know the least are the ones you need the most. The family, dysfunctional at best, must come together to continue care for Marvin and try to stave off Bessie’s death.
As a play, Marvin’s Room debuted in 1990, two years before playwright Scott McPherson died himself of a terminal illness. It won many theater awards, including the 1992 Drama Desk Award for Best Play. As a movie, released in 1996, Marvin’s Room starred Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Diane Keaton and Hume Cronyn,
Marvin’s Room producer is Players board member Barbara Alexander, and Assistant Director is Andrea Templeton, who appeared in Man of La Mancha. The cast is composed of players mostly new to the Wimberley Players scene. Bessie is played by Jerilyn Iliff Sister Lee is portrayed by Melinda Ellisor, who had dual roles in Man of La Mancha, and Aunt Ruth is played by Ellen Massey. Rich Upton takes on Dr. Wally and Teresa Stankewitz is Dr. Charlotte. Players photographer Jim Gillock portrays both Marvin (barely seen onstage) and medical receptionist Bob. Rounding out the cast are two youth actors, Nate Villarreal, as the criminally rebellious Hank, and Reed Neal as his younger brother Charlie.
Bisett says, “I am honored to introduce so many new faces to our audiences. Life is a challenge and this cast has definitely accepted the challenge. Come share their victory.”
Marvin’s Room will run weekends from February 8-24 at the Playhouse, 450 Old Kyle Road. Performances are 8:00 on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 on Sundays. The opening night reception, February 8, will begin at 7:00 p.m. with wine and hors d’oeuvres in the lobby. An after-show reception follows the performance.
Tickets can be reserved by phone starting January 28 by calling 847-0575. Beginning February 4, tickets are available at the theatre box office Monday through Friday from 1:00-5:00. All tickets are $15 except Opening Night ($20). Visa and Mastercard are accepted.