At my Wit’s beginning

A preview of the Dayton Playhouse’s Wit

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

The Cast of 'Wit'

There’s something to be said for feeling lost within yourself. That loneliness a person can feel when he or she has been faced with a verdict much larger than simple life drama … or, maybe, there’s nothing to be said at all.

At least that’s the thought process behind Wit, the Pulitzer-Prize winning play set to open at the Dayton Playhouse, Friday November 12 and run through November 21. The play is directed by Matthew Smith.

“While sitting through a rehearsal recently I was thinking that I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t ever seen the show before,” Dayton Playhouse Executive Director Wade Hamilton said of the show. “The script is beautiful. It’s so well written.”

Wit tells the story of Dr. Vivian Bearing, played by Barbara Coriell, a “hard-nosed, acerbic, academic martinet and zealot.” Dr. Bearing is the teacher or coach that so many adults can now look fondly upon; the one he or she hated in the moment, but now knows was, perhaps, someone from whom a student often learns the most.

The audience comes to meet Dr. Bearing upon a critical stage in her personal life – she has just been diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. As the viewer watches Dr. Bearing struggle with the disease, they are greeted by her uncanny wit, a charm on which she relies heavily in order to combat her fears.

“This show has an excellent cast,” Hamilton said. “They play so well off of each other that it really adds something extra. I’m very much looking forward to Barb’s [Barbara Coriell] performance. She’s such a gifted actress. I can’t wait to see it come to life in front of an audience.”

Hamilton said he has worked with Matthew Smith before, but he has thoroughly enjoyed his first time working with him as a director.

“I can honestly say it’s been a privilege,” Hamilton said. “Matthew’s creativity and attention to detail have turned this production into something amazing. I’m so proud to have it as part of our season.”

Written in 1999 by Margaret Edison, the creation of Wit was derived from the author’s experiences as a unit clerk in a teaching hospital. It is said that Edison’s observation of how the human emotion from doctors toward a patient’s treatment can often be left behind for the scientific process.

Hamilton had his own viewpoint:I’m generally in awe of people in the medical profession,” Hamilton said. “It has to be so hard to go to work every day knowing that you’re going to be faced with sickness and death.”

“I think that human emotion isn’t necessarily ‘lost’ by these doctors and nurses, but sometimes turned off as a coping mechanism . . . I would guess that finding that balance is one of the hardest things about that profession.”

And, perhaps, that is also the goal of Wit. Like any good story, this play is bound to show both sides, the struggles of Dr. Bearing and, of course, the doctors who are taking care of her. It will certainly bring to light the oft mentioned, “Doctors are people, too.”

“This is a tour de force for both actors and audience alike,” Smith said. “We see our leading lady in a heroic struggle against overwhelming odds, fighting with intelligence, humor and humanity. I challenge anyone not to be moved by this exquisite script and the strength of our cast’s performance.”

Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling the box office at (937) 424-8477 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., Monday thru Friday. Performance times are: Friday evenings at 8:00 p.m., Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday matinee at 2:00 p.m

Contact DCP freelance writer Caroline Shannon-Karasik at

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