My Interview With The Late, Great Alvin Epstein, Dead At 93
Alvin Epstein, a classical stage actor and director who appeared in the Broadway premiere of “Waiting for Godot” and was of the founding team at the Yale Repertory Theatre and a revived Yale School off Drama in the mid ‘60s, died on Monday in Newton, Mass. He was 93. Below is the interview I did with him when he starred in “Tuesdays with Morrie” at Hartford TheaterWorks in 2004..
In the play “Tuesdays with Morrie,” Alvin Epstein plays a feisty, eccentric and humanistic professor stricken with Lou Gehrig's disease who is giving a master class in life lessons to a former student, a cynical and adrift journalist.
But don't expect sentimental maxims from Epstein.
Offstage, Morrie he's not.
"I don't know if I shared what would seem his Whitman Sampler ideas about life and love and all of that," says the candid 79-year-old actor on a recent Tuesday. "But his bright intelligence, wit and courage were appealing, and I knew I could play that."
And play it well, receiving some of the most glowing reviews of his more than 50-year career when the show ran off-Broadway in 2002. Epstein is sliding back into Morrie's slippers in a new production now playing at Hartford's TheaterWorks.
"Alvin is able to cut through the sentimentality," says Rob Ruggiero, TheaterWorks associate artistic director who is staging the Hartford play by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom (based on Albom's bestselling memoir). "Alvin is all the things that makes a wonderful Morrie: He's candid, unedited and certainly speaks his mind. But he also has moments where he is a loving person, too. I think Alvin's natural temperament, combined with the character we perceive as Morrie, complement each other in unexpected and truthful ways."
After playing Morrie off and on for more than three years, does Epstein, too, have a life philosophy?
"No," he says flatly. "And if I did it would certainly not be Morrie's. I wish I did, but I don't. And I think that's partly why I like to play Morrie, because it gives a chance to pretend that I have a more positive attitude toward life."
What would "Tuesdays with Alvin" be like?
"It would be pretty grim," he says with a laugh, "but that's OK, too -- on occasion."