Shadowlands

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

So said C.S. Lewis before he really knew what he was talking about.

We’ve talked off and on about expanding the scope of the St. Louis Chesterton Society to include readings by Chesterton’s friends like C.S. Lewis G.B. Shaw, and even his enemies like H.G. Wells. So to that end, a review of Mustard Seed Theater’s recent production Shadowlands.

C.S. Lewis was a bachelor in his 50s when he finally married an American divorcee, Joy Gresham, 17 years his junior. Actually he married her twice: there was a civil marriage that he agreed to in order to extend to her British citizenship: in the USA today this would’ve been called a “sham marriage” and she’d have been called an “illegal” and he also a criminal. About a year later, he married her for real as he put it, in the Anglican Church. At this point, I must leave you to see the film to hear his justification for this. The play is about the circumstances of their marriage.

It is quite a powerful play exploring principally the meaning of suffering in the world: the problem of pain and of evil generally.  During her introduction, Mustard Seed’s artistic director Deanna Jent told us we should watch this play and try to imagine the effect this experience of love, suffering, and loss must have had on Lewis and how that might show up in a book.

Both the St. Louis City and County libraries have the DVD of the BBC’s 1985 production of the play, but neither seem to have the 1993 feature film starring Anthony Hopkins. You can buy it at Amazon or rent it from NetFlix.

Mustard Seed’s season closer is Ms. Dent’s adaptation of Lewis’ Till We Have Faces, which he wrote during this his marriage to Joy. Chestertonians will probably want to see it, dates are on Mustard Seed’s website.

As a sometime actor, I am glad to see I’m not too old to play the romantic lead; probably too untalented though. The cast was absolutely superb; the leads Gary Barker and Kelley Ryan lived their roles, getting just the right mix of surface adulthood, inner adolescence, outer decorum and inner longing brought out in gesture and inflection that I can only admire. I had been told they do good work at Mustard Seed Theater, and if this production is any indication at all, “good” is understatement. The theater itself is about 100 seats on risers – no curtain, no wing-space to speak of, but it seems pretty technically sophisticated. The designers did a great job with what they had and I’m going to borrow an idea or two.

It is great to get one’s nose out of a book (or a computer screen) once in awhile, so try to catch a DVD version of Shadowlands and then Till We Have Faces in April at Mustard Seed Theater.

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