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Wit At first glance, Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play could be a downer of colossal proportions: not only does its leading character, Dr. Vivian Bearing, die from ovarian cancer, which we witness with horrid precision and clinical intimacy, but Professor Bearing is also the foremost authority on the 17th-century metaphysical poet John Donne -— "death be not proud," "no man is an island" and other heady, religious thoughts — and throughout the play we are treated to snippets from her probing lectures and random thoughts on Donne's "Holy Sonnets." This has every intention of transforming into the most insufferable of dramas, like something meaningful and good for you from Public Broadcasting. But Edson performs the miraculous: harrowing as it ultimately is, she makes the act of dying entertaining and full of grace. Bearing's only passion in life is Donne; she has no lover, no family, no friends, and is fiercely proud of her immense intellect and cognitive skills. However, these will do her no good as she screams in pain from the treatments meant to cure her. Self-absorbed lovers of research and as dedicated as she to pure knowledge, her doctors dissect her malady with as much unemotional precision as she once used to parse the great Jacobean poet. Neither art nor science, Ms. Edson states with utter felicity and theatrical know-how in her dexterously intelligent and playful play, is of much comfort when one faces death. Everything boils down to a great essence: a kind word or a soothing deed. In Texas Rep's sublime rendition, Pamela Vogel, as Vivian, is show-stoppingly radiant: icy, Olympian, witty and, at the end, all too human as she heads into the light. Edson's play is equally redeeming and triumphant, and must not be missed. Through April 13. 14243 Steubner Airline. 281-583-7573. — DLG.

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