Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wit

This is the title of a play by Margaret Edson which I just read. Several months ago my mother offered it to me with the description "It's a downer but it's very good." I wasn't going to take it, because, as I'm always complaining, my reading list is always too long, and this didn't look like something I would like: a play about a woman dying of cancer. I don't especially like reading plays (except Shakespeare) and it didn't sound like a promising subject.

(Digression: one of the experiences that caused me to give up sending poems to magazines and just put them on the web was the time I had several returned with a note that the editor was "at this time only considering poems that deal with women's health issues." I mean, why bother?)

Then I noticed a blurb from John Simon on the back: "A dazzling and humane play you will remember till your dying day." Simon, for many years National Review's movie critic, is a hard-nosed and hard-to-please kind of guy, and if he called it "dazzling" I was pretty sure it would be worth reading.

It's great. It's powerful on the page, and I can only imagine that a good performance would knock you over completely. The woman with cancer is an English professor who specializes in Donne's Holy Sonnets, and let's just say the play delivers on the promise of that situation.

I see there is a 2001 movie starring Emma Thompson which has an awful lot of five-star reviews on Amazon. Anybody have an opinion on it?