Friday, December 11, 2015

Off-Broadway Theater Review: The Great Divorce

Michael Frederic, Christa Scott-Reed and Joel Rainwater Photo: Joan Marcus
The Great Divorce
By C.S. Lewis
Adapted by Max McLean and Brian Watkins
Directed by Bill Castellino
Fellowship for Performing Arts
at the Pearl Theatre
through Jan, 3

What's It all About?
C.S. Lewis'           comes to the stage to kick off the inaugural 2015/2016 season of Fellowship for Performing Arts with an adaptation by Artistic Director Max Mcean and Brian Wikins. Christa Scott Reed (The Pitman Painters), Joel Rainwater (The Lion King National Tour), and Michael Frederic (Bill W. and Dr. Bob) are three people who meet in a sort of limbo and take a flying bus on a journey toward heaven. But is it heaven? And if it is, how does one figure out how to get off the bus and separate from all that has been left behind? The plot has to do with spiritual choices -- the Great Divorce between heaven and hell. Among the characters appearing in the fantasy are an artist, a grieving mother, a mumbling grumbler and a bitter wife. How will the choices they made contribute to who they became and  how they deceive themselves about God. Will they be able to see the truth and embrace what waits in heaven or will there always be something else they desire instead of joy?

There are two kinds of people, a wise, tartan-clad adviser tells us: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "Thy will be done."

What are the Highlights?
Well, you can't go wrong with C.S. Lewis. The British novelist who found faith later in life is one of the foremost thinkers about Christianity (He gave us such wonderful literary classics as "The Lion, the witch and the Wardrobe," "A Grief Observed," "Surprised by Joy" and "Mere Christianity," just to name a few. His study of how the enemy influences Christians, "The Screwtape Letters," also was adapted for the stage by McLean and had an Off-Broadway run several seasons ago (for which it received a "The Lights Are Bright on Broadway Award) and a national tour (see below for upcoming productions). Kelly James Tighe provides a backdrop that houses cartoonish projections (designed by Jeffrey Cady with lighting by Michael Gilliam) to enhance the fantasy setting. Nicole Wee provides costumes (many of them very quick changes) to clothe numerous characters and the always excellent John Gromada provides original music and sound design.

A good conversation starter.

What are the Lowlights?
The allegory can be rather confusing at times, especially if you aren't a student of Lewis or of theology. 

More Information:
The Great Divorce plays through Jan. 3 at The Pearl Theatre555 West 42nd St., NYC. Run time is 90 minutes, no intermission. Tickets: fpatheatre.com212-563-9261.

The Screwtape Letters adapted by McLean and Jeffrey Fiske will play in New York Jan. 6-24 and will tour to these cities:

PORTLAND, OR — March 1-2, 2016
REDDING, CA — March 4, 2016
SAN DIEGO, CA — March 6, 2016
MESA, AZ — March 12, 2016

McLean will star in The Most reluctant Convert, an adapttion from Lewis' writings about his conversaion from atheism to Christianity Dec. 13, 14, 20 and 21; Feb. 18-21 in New York.

Fellowship for Performing Arts produces theatre from a Christian worldview that engages a diverse audience. More at

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain

Lauren Yarger

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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