Wit, which earned the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, is the fall theatrical production at Keuka College.

In her extraordinary first play, Margaret Edson has created a work that is as intellectually challenging as it is emotionally immediate.

Directed by Professor of Theatre Mark Wenderlich, Wit opens Friday, Oct. 20, at 8 p.m. in the Red Barn Theatre, with additional performances Saturday, Oct. 21, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. A special performance to benefit New Hope Cancer Care will be staged Thursday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. New Hope Cancer Care offers financial help and practical services for local people diagnosed with cancer.

Wit centers on Vivian Bearing, Ph.D., a renowned professor of English who has spent years studying and teaching the brilliant and difficult metaphysical sonnets of John Donne. She has been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer, and her approach to death is in the vein of Donne: aggressively probing, and intensely rational.

But during the course of her illness — and her stint as a prize patient in an experimental chemotherapy program at a major teaching hospital — Vivian comes to reassess her life, and her work, with a profundity and humor that are transformative both for her and the audience.

The New York Times called the play “(A) brutally human and beautifully layered new play ... you feel both enlightened and, in a strange way, enormously comforted,” while New York magazine said Wit is “a dazzling and humane new play that you will remember till your dying day.”

Members of the cast include Venessa Andrews (Susie Monahan), a sophomore social work major from Dundee, and Marylou Bondi (E.M. Ashford), a sophomore English major from Prattsburgh. Daryan Von Krusze, an exploratory major from Camden, serves as stage manager.

Dr. Dianne Trickey-Rokenbrod, chair of Keuka College’s Division of Occupational Therapy, stars as Dr. Vivian Bearing. John Christensen, a reporter for The Chronicle-Express in Penn Yan, portrays both Harvey Kelekian and Mr. Bearing. Brent Siwak, who works at both the Top of the Lake restaurant in Penn Yan and the Green Front restaurant in Canandaigua, portrays Jason Posner.

Several students portray laboratory technicians, Dr. Bearing’s students, interns, and nurses. They include Michael Beebe, a freshman American Sign Language-English interpreting major from Woodbine, N.J.; Stephanie Boom, a freshman American Sign Language major from Osceola, Pa.; Amelia Johnson, a junior education studies major from Penn Yan; and Colin Nichols, a freshman American Sign Language major from Addison.

Patrons attending the benefit performance are asked to pay what they are able. Tickets for the additional performances are $5 for Keuka College students, faculty, and staff, and $10 for the general public and can be purchased at the door. Seating is limited.

To learn more about New Hope Cancer Care, part of The Living Well, a ministry of the United Methodist Churches of Yates County, visit http://www.umcthelivingwell.org.