Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Shadowlands

Daniel Gerroll, Robin Abramson, and Jack McCarthy. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Shadowlands
By William Nicholson
Directed by Christa Scott-Reed
Fellowship for Performing Arts
Through Jan. 7

By Lauren Yarger
Continuing its excellent productions of C.S. Lewis-themed works, Fellowship for Performing Arts brings the author to life with Daniel Gerroll's portrayal of the writer and Christian apologist in New York's first revival of  William Nicholson's play Shadowlands.

A film, with a screenplay by Nicholson, was released in 1993 starring Anthony Hopkins as Lewis and Debra Winger as his wife, Joy. It is based on Lewis's "A Grief Observed."

Lewis is an academic at Oxford, shooting the breeze with his colleagues, and living at home with his brother, Major Warnie Lewis (John C. Vennema). His quiet existence is turned upside down, however, with the arrival of married Joy Davidman, a 
Jewish-American writer, former Communist and Christian convert. Joy is an admirer of Lewis's writing and after a long correspondence with the author, shows up for a face-to-face with her young son, Douglas in tow (Jack McCarthy and Jacob Morrell share the role).

Warnie and Lewis's other friends are put off by Joy's blunt manner -- and the fact that she can hold her own, or even get the better of them in debate. What starts as a friendship between Joy and Lewis morphs to a marriage of convenience and blossoms into true love, but happiness is cut short when Joy is diagnosed with cancer.


How does one cope with such pain after waiting so long for happiness? Among other insightful commentary, Lewis muses that perhaps God wants us loveable rather than happy. Suffering is how we release our hold on what is important in this world and realize that our value lies in the spiritual realm.


The philosophical banter between Joy , Christopher Riley (Sean Gormley) and the others is amusing and tautly directed by  
Christa Scott-Reed. The humor blends with deep thoughts to create empathy for the characters as well as to force us to contemplate our own emotions. 

Joy's faith is inspirational. She tells her husband that the pain to come is part of the joy they are experiencing in the present. Lewis's faith following her death is an example to his colleagues. It’s  this is kind of a sad story, though, so be prepared, even if Joy's physical pain doesn't play out as totally believable (it seems acted, especially if you ever have been with someone dying the horribly painful death she did).


Additional cast: Dan Kremer, Daryll Heysham, Jacob H. Knoll, Robin Abramson, Stephanie Cozart.

Additional credits: Scenic Design by Kelly James Tighe, Costume Design by Michael Bevins, Lighting Design by Aaron Spivey, Original Music and Sound design by John Gromada.


Shadowlands plays at the Acorn Theatre, 419 West 42nd St., NYC, through Jan. 7. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Note: no performances on Thursday, Nov. 23Sunday, Dec. 24; or Sunday, Dec. 31. There will be an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Friday, Dec. 29.Tickets are $75-$95:  FPAtheatre.com212-239-6200.

More About Fellowship for Performing Arts

Founded by Max McLean, New York City-based Fellowship for Performing Arts (FPA) produces theatre from a Christian worldview created to engage diverse audiences. In its first two seasons in New York it produced The Great DivorceThe Screwtape Letters,  Martin Luther on Trial and C.S. Lewis Onstage: The Most Reluctant Convert, Check the website for a list of productions in other locations around the US.

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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 "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 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 http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com 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.

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

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

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.

Copyright

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

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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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