Shadowlands: A Dual Critics Review
Theatre Jacksonville opened the second play of its 100th season with Shadowlands by William Nicholson on January 10, 2019, which will remain on stage through January 26. This true story, new to our local stages, is both a romantic drama and an exploration of challenging theological issues. The play opened in London in 1989, premiered on Broadway in 1990, and garnered a Tony nomination.
Shadowlands is set in the 1950’s in England, and begins with confirmed bachelor C. S. Lewis (known as “Jack”) carousing with his buddies, a scene meant to show his comfortable carefree life. He was famous as an academic with posts at Oxford and Cambridge. He was even more famous as a prolific writer of well-respected religious and philosophical books. And he wrote fiction as well, most often with an underlying Christian theme: Chronicles of Narnia was a blockbuster.
Joy Gresham enters his life after traveling to Oxford to meet him with her young son Douglas. They had become pen pals earlier; she was a well-known American poet (published under her maiden name of Joy Davidman) who admired his work and had initiated the correspondence. She is nearing forty, and while in a troubled marriage, is bright, cheerful and straightforward.
After returning home, she divorces her husband and returns with her son to England where she plans to stay. She and Jack then become friends and collaborators, an easy transition as she is his intellectual equal. And while both had experienced doubts about Christianity in the past, they are avowed Christians at this point in their lives. When her visa expires and she is unable to review it, Jack comes to the rescue: they will marry and she won’t need a visa. We will leave what happens as time progresses for you to discover.
Geoffrey King appears as C. S. Lewis in his fourteenth polished appearance on Theatre Jax’s stage. He is on stage constantly for almost two hours and is truly brilliant in this demanding role.
Joy’s son Douglas is portrayed by Thaine Deverson, who did a great job with the role of a bright young child adapting to change. He previously soloed in TJ’s summer musical Nonna Gia.
Robert “Bob” Gerard appears in the role of the Major Warnie Lewis, Jack’s older brother and best friend. He portrayed a loving warmth and concern for Jack, along with comedic moments. Previous major roles have included King Henry II in Lion in Winter and Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music.
Shadowlands was directed by Gary Webber who is the Senior Pastor at Southside Baptist Church. He and his wife Sheri are both graduates of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and Jacksonville University. He has directed a number of plays and has recently appeared on stage in Theater Jacksonvile’s To Kill A Mocking Bird and Arsenic and Old Lace. Reverend Webber’s daughter Maisy was the show’s Assistant Director and Stage Manager.
Additional Technical team members for Shadowlands included Tim Watson (Technical Director, Lighting and Scenic Design), Lauren Copeland (Assistant Technical Director), Joy Smith (Costume Design), Gary Webber (Sound Design), Brandi Ford (Hair and Makeup), Jonathan Scherf (Graphic Design), Michelle Kindy (Production Manager), Jada Corbitt and Max Moorehead (Assistant Stage Managers), Ron Shreve (Properties); Audie Gibson (Light Board Operator); Nancy McMillan-Wilson (Sound Board Operator); Savannah LeNoble and Mollie Sharpe (Running Crew).
Shadowlands was supported by the Delores Barr Weaver FOREVER EVENT FUND is probably the most thought-provoking play ever presented on this stage.
The theatre is located at 2032 San Marco Boulevard, in Jacksonville, Florida. Visit theatrejax.com for additional information or call 904-396-4425 for reservations.