A New Story for our Local Stages: Shadowlands at Theatre Jacksonville

Shadowlands: A Dual Critics Review 

A New Story for our Local Stages: Shadowlands at Theatre Jacksonville

 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. 

A New Story for our Local Stages: Shadowlands at Theatre Jacksonville

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. 

The cast of Shadowlands at Theatre Jacksonville

 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. 

 Grace H. Bryan is marvelous as Joy. This is her second Theatre Jax appearance; last year she was outstanding in Silent Sky in the role of Henrietta.

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.  

A New Story for our Local Stages: Shadowlands at Theatre Jacksonville

 Tyler C. Patton, a UNF graduate, appeared as Brittisher Christopher Riley and has made a number of stage appearances since we saw his first one at Jacksonville’s Episcopal School.

Rounding out the cast are Jonathan O’Leary as Harry Harrington, Paul Gregg as Alan Gregg/Priest, Susan St. Dennis as Registrar/Nurse, and Matt King as Dr. Maurice Oakley.

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.

 A New Story for our Local Stages: Shadowlands at Theatre Jacksonville

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. 


About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.