‘Shadowlands’ is a romantic tale of love

In "Shadowlands", Robert Smyth, left, plays C.S. "Jack" Lewis and Deborah Gilmore Smyth portrays Joy Gresham. Lamb's Players Theatre photos
In “Shadowlands”, Robert Smyth, left, plays C.S. “Jack” Lewis and Deborah Gilmore Smyth portrays Joy Gresham. Lamb’s Players Theatre photos

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal
Special to the Village News

“Shadowlands” is a love story. Truly and honestly depicted by a band of players in love with the writings of C. S. Lewis, “Jack” to his friends.

Lewis believes “the magic never ends.” And wonders aloud – “if God loves us (why) then must we suffer pain and loss?”

Famous for his fanciful books, “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, Lewis was also an acclaimed Christian intellectual. Educated at Oxford and later appointed as a Fellow of English Language and Literature, he ponders “if God loves us – why does he allow us pain and suffering or is pain now part of happiness then?”

Based on the bestseller by William Nicholson, “Shadowlands” tells the story about Lewis’s all too short marriage to Joy Davidman Gresham, an American poet. Released in 1994 as a film starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, “Shadowlands” peeks into the life of this famous, self-assured, 50ish bachelor who still lives with his older brother, Warnie.

In the early 1950’s, C. S. Lewis was a celebrity. As such, just like today, Lewis received lots of fan mail. Out of the many, there is just one letter that charms him. He mentions offhandedly to his brother, Warnie, about the casual tone of a letter from this married, American poet, Joy Davidman Gresham.

He declares, “she writes as though she already knows me.”  Lewis writes back. And, over time, romance follows.

Gresham was born into a middle-class Jewish family. Later, she converted to Christianity after renouncing the Communist party and, once divorced, moves to Oxford, England since it is “cheaper to live here” than in America.

A single mother with two boys, Gresham developed a heartfelt friendship with the much older Lewis.

From left, Robert Smyth, as C.S. "Jack" Lewis; Deborah Gilmore Smyth as Joy Gresham; Brian Salmons as Warnie Lewis and Charlton Hricko as Douglas Gresham play out a scene in "Shadowlands" at Lamb's Players Theatre.
From left, Robert Smyth, as C.S. “Jack” Lewis; Deborah Gilmore Smyth as Joy Gresham; Brian Salmons as Warnie Lewis and Charlton Hricko as Douglas Gresham play out a scene in “Shadowlands” at Lamb’s Players Theatre.

As the story unfolds, Gresham and Lewis agree to wed. In this way, by getting married, she will be allowed to remain in England. Centered around their loving friendship, married costars Deborah Gilmore Smyth (Joy Gresham) and Robert Smyth (Jack Lewis) tell this touching story by way of living it.

Played with compassion and empathy, Deborah Smyth doesn’t work at developing her character – she embodies her. Robert Smyth is the consummate English gentleman, staid and true – the cornerstone of the production.

One of the challenges of a play based in the U.K. is staying-in-the accent. Kudos go to the dialect coach, Jillian Frost. All of the cast and featured players are believable Brits, starting with Brian Salmons (Warnie Lewis) who is triumphant as Jack’s older brother.

John Rosen lives his character, Christopher Riley.  Rosen’s performance is just snarky enough to be a real man and personifies himself as true long-time friend to Lewis.

Outstanding performances by Charlton Hricko (Douglas Gresham), Caitie Grady (Registrar/Nurse), Paul Maley (Dr. Harrington), Jordan Miller (Alan Gregg/Doctor), and Jonathan Sachs (Dr. Oakley/Priest) help to tell this romantic tale.

Directed by Kerry Meads, at first glance, it appears she had nothing to do. This is a perfectly cast production filled with consummate professionals. One might believe the director could have called this one in. But we all know better. Well done!

Furthermore, Mike Buckley’s scenic design is flawless. Interspersed with projections designed by Blake McCarty, we are drawn into each scene without pause. Lighting by Nathan Pierson and sound by Patrick Duffy communicate the story as well as the dialog.

Jeanne Reith, costume designer, dresses the English country gentleman in Scottish wool jackets and cashmere vests. She dresses Joy in appealing 1950’s apparel and every other character to perfection.

“Shadowlands” is the fifth production dedicated to Lewis by The Lamb’s Players over the past two decades. This romantic tale of love between grown-ups is heartwarming and worth the journey to Coronado.

The Lamb’s Players Theatre is at 1142 Orange Avenue, Coronado, 92118. This show plays Tuesdays 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays 2 and 7:30 p.m. (7:30 only on March 22), Thursdays 7:30 p.m., Fridays 8 p.m., Saturdays 4 and 8 p.m.,  and Sundays 2 p.m. until Sunday, April 9. Tickets are available at www.lambsplayers.org or the box office: (619) 437-6000. A must see.

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