For a show about terminal illness, Seabury Hall's production of "Marvin's Room" was surprisingly uplifting. The play straddled the line between hilarious and heart-breaking, sobering and life-affirming, taking on life-and-death issues without ever taking itself too seriously.
With the help of Scott McPherson's superb script, the Seabury Hall students brought maturity and emotional agility to their roles. Scarlett Engle played Bessie, Marvin's daughter who holds the family together even after discovering that she has leukemia. Engle tackled the toughest role in the show with simplicity and honesty.
Sydney Roberts was Lee, Bessie's estranged sister who arrives for a bone marrow compatibility test with her difficult teenage sons in tow. Roberts did a wonderful job portraying a funny and multidimensional character who wants to do the right thing, but is often too self-centered and impatient to carry through.
Morgan Malkovich nailed the role of Ruth, Bessie's simple but warm-hearted aunt. Her slow drawl and deadpan sincerity could not have been more perfect or hilarious.
Ryan Noufer was convincing as Hank, Lee's delinquent son who has spent the last few years in a mental institution after burning down his house and most of the surrounding neighborhood. Gavin Selman was funny and enthusiastic as Hank's little brother, Charlie.
Taka Tsutsui played the clumsy and tactless Dr. Wally, who diagnoses Bessie with cancer.
Gregory Saydah was versatile as Marvin, who appears as a shadow behind a frosted bedroom window, Doctor Wally's incompetent but hilarious assistant Bob, and the man in the Goofy costume at Disney World.
Kendall Umetsu and Lauren Bailey were both strong as the sarcastic psychiatrist and condescending retirement home director.
Beth Terracina, David Hafer and cast members Saydah, Umetsu and Bailey kept the show moving quickly as the set-changing orderlies.
Director Sally Sefton teamed up with set and light designer Todd Van Amburgh and costume designer Andr Morissette to create an engaging, unique and deeply touching show.
* "Marvin's Room" shows at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Seabury Hall Performance Studio. Tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for seniors and $5 for students. Call 573-1257 for information and reservations.