North Bethesda United Methodist Church’s’ (NBUMC) presentation of William Nicholson’s Shadowlands, directed by Janet Van Albert Replogle, is a delightful and touching real life story of the relationship between C.S. Lewis, the famous author of The Chronicles of Narnia book series, and Joy Gresham, an American writer. The story is told in Jack’s (C.S. Lewis’ familiar name to friends) memory over the course of nine years, from the time Joy travels to England from America with her son to visit C.S. Lewis, to the time of her death from bone cancer.
Mike Replogle’s performance as C.S. Lewis is expertly done. His portrayal of Jack’s keen intellect, spirituality, and realization of his true affection and love for Joy is authentic and moving. Likewise, Dayna Fellows’ portrayal of Joy, who comes into Jack’s life as an avid fan of his writings and correspondence and returns to England following her divorce to start again, only to fall in-love with the unwitting Jack, is equally moving. Joy’s keen sense of humor and Jack’s sharp wit give the audience ample laughs, even during the darkest moments.
The brotherly love and affection and comfortable, easy back and forth between Jack and Warnie Lewis, played by Jim Todhunter, feels real and genuine. These stand out performances by Mike Replogle, Dayna Fellows and Jim Todhunter, elevate the production and allow the audience to buy into the change in venues from one scene to another. John Allnutt also gives a strong performance as Professor Christopher Riley, one of C.S. Lewis’ fellow Oxford friends, and one who does not share Lewis’ affection for Joy. The supporting cast, who often play multiple roles with great effect, further enhance the overall production.
The set is composed of several areas, with the main stage area turned into the very realistic English cottage home shared by Jack and Warnie Lewis. Ed Swanson’s light design allows the change in venues to shift effortlessly and the story to flow smoothly. The special lighting effects around the scenes with Joy’s son, Douglas, played by Bryant Holdren, give added meaning to the events.
If you are looking for a show that seeks to answer the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” then look no further.
Shadowlands will make you think, laugh, and feel and go home with the sense that you have witnessed a powerful story.
Shadowlands performs through October 23, 2016 at North Bethesda United Methodist Church – 10100 Old Georgetown Road, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call the church at (301) 530-4342 or reserve them online.
The review is by Guest Reviewer Natalie McManus.