As my husband and I walk into the Theater, the curtain is up, and on the semi-lit stage there, against a backdrop of a starless sky with a waxing moon, is a long low bookcase and a coatrack. Downstage is broken into three areas marked by rectangular rugs with intricate but subtle woven designs; and groupings of furniture on each carpet complete the simple, warm set. Centerstage there is a comfy armchair flanked by a small wooden end table with books and a small globe; on the stage right carpet (to the audience's left) stands a wooden desk with a welcoming gooseneck reading light glowing, and more books. And stage right there is a low freestanding wooden buffet-cabinet with a carafe plus glass and another small, lit lamp. We are obviously looking into Lewis' study.
The theater goes dark and when the spotlight comes on we see Lewis centerstage, dressed as if he just has come in from one of his walks. He turns thoughtfully to the audience …and you can just tell the wind up for a story is at hand!
"When I was an atheist..."
This line opens the door as the audience is drawn in to the world of C.S. Lewis as we travel together tracing his spiritual pilgrimage with flash backs to his childhood, studies with the great Knock, the War, and academia. Deftly weaving together excerpts from Surprised by Joy, Collected Letters, The Problem of Pain, The Weight of Glory, Mere Christianity, God in the Dock, Present Concerns
and Christian Reflections
, and more, Max McLean voices and captures the don and author well as Lewis’ objections to God’s existence, and then to Christ as Savior and Lord slowly unravel.
The script flowed smoothly and was well supported by the lighting and staging, especially the tone-setting music and special visual effects. The huge backdrop screen smoothly switched projections to reinforce the setting or subject of the moment in Lewis’ narrative. At various points the backdrop was a study wall with a window surrounded by family pictures that would swiftly zoom larger when Lewis talked about particular individuals. At other points the screen morphed into scenes around Oxford, or his childhood haunts, the moon, woods, Northerness, the War, and more. McLean gave a wonderful performance and it was a delight to see Lewis in his own words come to life.
Although there is some childhood background, the play focuses on Lewis’s twenty year intellectual and spiritual development from WWI when he was a commited atheist to his conversion first to theism and then to Christianity. This two-stage pilgrimage involved many encounters through books plus conversations with colleagues and friends; and the actor/scriptwriter McLean presented this process of reluctant transformation very well.
What you will see: thoughtful, smooth, heartfelt delivery of Lewis’ ideas coming to life, with intellectual honesty grappling with spiritual issues and questions over time.
What you won’
t see: Lewis drinking tea or tossing ashes onto his carpet from his pipe.
If you have a chance to see this one-man show, I heartily recommend it. Already having toured the East Coast and West Coast, currently it is playing in Chicago, but it is adding shows in the Midwest and other places before it crosses over to London.
For more details about this and other productions, click on this link: https://fpatheatre.com/
note: Max McLean and Fellowship for Performing Arts is not related to this website; surf at your own peril.