Playwright: William Nicholson
Company: Denver Center Theatre Company
Venue: Stage Theatre, Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA), 1101 13th Street, Denver, CO 80204
Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission)
Date of Performance: Sunday, April 13, 2014
It is overwhelmingly humbling, and exceedingly rare, to be in the presence of excellence. I was in the presence of excellence at Shadowlands, and the experience is transforming.
To be clear, this is not just a matter of excellent performances, although that's part of the experience. There's more, much more, to Shadowlands. There's the high quality script, the magic of the set, and the beauty of the lighting. But most importantly, the excellence of Shadowlands is the power of its intelligent handling of some basic human experiences: love, loss, faith, and grief.
Shadowlands tells the story of author C.S. Lewis (best known for his children's books The Chronicles of Narnia) and his American wife, Joy Davidman. Lewis was in his fifties when he met Davidman. He was seventeen years older than her. Their love affair is an exquisite thing to watch on the DCPA stage. Davidman's death from bone cancer in the second act is devastating to Lewis, whose faith in God is challenged by the enormity of his loss.
The play opens with Lewis giving a lecture on faith, love, and suffering at Oxford; he's clearly a brilliant speaker with a brilliant mind.
Men are like blocks of stone out of which the sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of His chisel, which hurt so much, are what makes us perfect.
Lewis' words come back to haunt him; they have catastrophic impact when he suffers those chisel blows himself.
Lewis, and by extension, all of us, are called to question our faith in the face of unbearable suffering. Who among us has not, or will not someday, lose a loved one? Who among us won't suffer profound grief as a result? Who among us can understand or explain how an all powerful deity could tolerate such cruelty?
|Graeme Malcolm (C.S. Lewis)|
Graeme Malcolm plays Jack (C.S.) Lewis here. His performance is masterful, intelligent, emotional, and highly effective. Malcolm shows us Lewis as a proper English gentleman, and as an intellectual curmudgeon who devolves into an emotional, broken man. And he is pitch perfect conveying Lewis with every line and with every gesture. Malcolm is a highly talented actor at the top of his game. You are in the presence of excellence every moment he appears on the stage.
The same can be said about Kathleen McCall, who plays Lewis' wife Joy. You are in the
presence of excellence every moment she is on the stage. McCall and Malcolm, together, delivered such an impact that there were tears and audible sobs in the audience in the second act. Yes. It's really that powerful.
|Kathleen McCall (Joy) & Charlie Korman (Douglas)|
I said earlier that the set is "magic." I meant it. The set morphs, on its own, right before your eyes. It is stunning just to see set pieces come and go.
With all the marvelous actors, the high tech lights, sound and set, Shadowlands gets first class treatment from Director Christy Montour-Larson and the Denver Center Theater Company. Somehow, though, the real star here is William Nicholson and his script. It is as intelligent as Lewis himself, and as serious and weighty as a cage match for philosophers. Nicholson gives us the raw C.S. Lewis; the intellectual who was brilliant enough to realize that he didn't have all the answers.
To hear important ideas expressed in the most intelligent terms is an extremely rare experience. Shadowlands is theatrical excellence, from start to finish. You will be in the presence of excellence when you see this cast, this production, and this script. You will not soon forget Shadowlands.
|Opening night standing ovation for Shadowlands.|
This show is safe for all ages, but the subject matter may not interest anyone under 16 (that's a fairly arbitrary guess). The subjects are philosophical, religious, medical, and academic. In other words, those whose ideas are best expressed in <120 character texts may not enjoy the show.
Parking is $12.00 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts garage. It's close, safe, and relatively inexpensive for the location.
This show closes on April 27, 2014.
Pre or post show dining suggestion:
The Denver Center provides a list of suggested restaurants on its web page. I can't vouch for most of these, as I haven't tried many of them. The list does seem to be on the pricey side, though, so you may want to do some research before getting a table.
Photo Credits: Denver Center Theater Company, John Moore and examiner.com.
Director: Christy Montour-Larson
Set Design: Lisa Orzolek
Lighting Design: Charles R MacLeod
Sound Design: Jason Ducat
Costume Design: Angela Balogh Calin
Dramaturg: Douglas Langworthy
Voice/Dialect Coach: Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D
C.S. Lewis (Jack): Graeme Malcolm
Joy Davidman: Kathleen McCall
Warnie Lewis: John Hutton
Christopher Riley: Sam Gregory
Harrington: Michael Santo
Douglas: Charlie Korman
Alan Gregg/Doctor/Waiter: Douglas Harmsen
Nurse/Registrar/Woman in Tea Room: Stephanie Cozart
Priest/Waiter/Dr. Oakley/Clerk: John Arp