“Shadowlands” at the Acorn Theater is a play about C.S. Lewis’s life in Oxford England around the 1950’s. Lewis, a tremendous intellect is frequently surrounded by his brother,(Major Warnie Lewis, played by John Vennema), and four other friends. Lewis , (Daniel Gerroll) is content on his Fellowship and his writings and nothing else. He is a lifelong bachelor and likes it that way. This all changes when a fan of his, a pen pal shows up at Oxford with her son, Douglas,( Jack Mc Carthy). Her name is Joy Davidman, (Robin Abramson), she is an Atheist, a former Jew, Christian and Communist. Rough around the edges, this New Yorker is an accomplished poet who won a poetry writing contest with Robert Frost. She has an edge to her, upon meeting Lewis and his brother and friends, they are taken aback by her gruff ways. Lewis agrees to meet again for tea at his house, then invites her and her son to Christmas dinner, much to the chagrin of Warnie. Lewis is becoming smitten with Joy, and asks her to marry him so that she may stay in England, as her husband is having an affair and wants a divorce which she is more then willing to comply with. He is a violent drunk and has hit Douglas at times. the first act ends with her grabbing her leg and passing out in pain.
The second act finds Joy in the hospital, she has bone cancer and it is terminal, she can die any day. Through some miracle, she gets better and Lewis decides that they are truly in love and should have a real wedding ceremony with a Preacher at there side. She leaves the hospital and go to Greece for a honeymoon, where everything seems to be perfect. Joy has gotten C.S. out of his shadow, he begins to let go of his safety net.
Upon arriving home, Joy takes a turn for the worst. It is inevitable that she is going to die. C.S. and Joy banter about dying and what it must be like. Lewis, it turns out is more scared then she is about her imminent death, he has put his life out there, started to open up, to live and he is about to lose his best friend.
After Joy’s death, we see a courageous Lewis, one who takes control of Douglas, who stands up to his fellow colleagues about Joy and his love for her. They all realize that C.S. has changed and that he is stronger, wiser in the ways of love and life.
What I liked most about this play is the opening act starts with Lewis talking about life and God. He does the same at the opening of Act two and again at the end of the play. I found these monologues to be both poignant and deep.
What I liked least about the play is that I thought Gerroll, C. S. Lewis, was weak. He was tentative in his delivery, stuttered on some lines and would often be out of place on the stage.
Robert M. Massimi recommends this play.