Be prepared for the metaphysical, a given when you’ve got Donne scholar Vivian Bearing (played to bald perfection by Julia Brothers) with whom to contend. And, while it helps to have a Pulitzer Prize-winning script to work with, it’s the skill of the B Street Theatre’s staging that makes this such a standout production of Wit.Bearing, an intellectually powerful and scathingly no-nonsense professor who has just been diagnosed with Stage IV metastasized ovarian cancer, is ever the scholar, even when it does not serve her emotional needs. Her dying may start out as an intellectual endeavor, but in a manner truly reminiscent of the metaphysical poets Bearing adores, it quickly becomes more complicated.
The swirling chaos of professor Bearing’s final weeks is played out on a stage with moveable hospital panels and medical equipment on wheels, a physical manifestation of the rapid physical changes as her disease progresses.
As the young research physician who once earned an A- in Bearing’s course, Jason Kuykendall has all the tunnel vision of his professors, while Katie Rubin, in a remarkably quiet but forceful performance, gives us the sort of nurse we all hope for at the end.
But the indisputable focus of the play is Bearing, and Brothers (reprising a role she originated at the San Jose Stage Company in 2001) gives her both dignity and pathos in equal parts.
Yes, Wit is witty; it’s also heart-rendingly real.