May 23, 2002



reviewed by
Lynn Trenning



















For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

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(special to the Charlotte Observer)

Shadowlands, produced by the Off-Tryon Theatre Company, tells the engaging love story of the late in life romance between Irish writer C.S. Lewis and American poet Joy Davidman. Though Lewis marries her as an act of kindness, their friendship blossoms into a love deeper than he knew he could feel. Set in Oxford in 1953, this portrayal of quiet academic life is so quaint and sheltered it seems to take place in a different century.

Known as Jack to his friends, Lewis was a professor, a philosopher, and an ardent Christian. He wrote books on joy, grief, faith, and most famously, the Chronicles of Narnia and the Screwtape Letters, both which have earned hallowed spots in childrenís literature. Smug, comfortable, and emotionally untouched, Lewis and his professorial cohorts spend their evenings discussing man, god, prayer, and the mystery of women, who "are more interesting in theory than in practice."

How refreshing to spend the evening with a group of bachelors whose idea of an entertaining evening is lively discourse! The first half of the play is riveting. Joe Copley is delightful as Lewis. Pompous enough to make brash statements ("Pain is Godís megaphone to arouse a deaf world"), he still manages to blush when the forthright Davidman challenges his haughty presumptions. And challenge them she does. From her flamboyant red dress to her elaborately styled hair, Davidman, played by Christy Basa, breezes right through the cobwebs of the all-male Lewis household, breaking through the protective ivory tower where Lewis resides.

Other acting highlights include Lee Thomas as the petty and jealous academic cohort Christopher Riley, and Stan Peal as brother Warnie Lewis. With a comfortable slouch, and a bewitching twinkle in his eye, Peal is the perfect warm and crusty counterbalance to his stiffly academic brother. On the weak side is Davidmanís son Douglas, played listlessly by Ian Colbert. The role is expected to mirror Lewis as a young man, and requires more substance.

The set changes are politely performed by male actors in suits, like a team of unified butlers. Dustcovers are used with mixed success to portray a netherworld of shadows, and a present world of messy comfort. Director Glenn Griffin embraces Lewis' literature with a center stage wardrobe that doubles as the mysterious beyond.

The second half of the play is not nearly as fun to watch as Lewis wrestles with the hard truth of raw emotion versus the didacticism of his religion. As his wife lies helpless in bed, there is a lot of wistful staring and awkward displays of affection, and plenty of sadness for lifeís harsh realities.

Lynn Trenning, May 23, 2002

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