“Lewis & Tolkien” at The Sheen Center,(Black Box), is a great evening of theater. The play takes place solely at The Rabbit room at The Eagle and Child pub in Oxford ,England 1963. It is the two literary giants last meeting, one where they patch up old differences. C.S.Lewis,”Jack” as he is known(David Payne), and “Tollers”, J.R.R. Tolkien (Gordon Tett), are wonderful in there roles. As an audience one does not take sides, the two are completely different, Tolkien who is a devout Catholic, steeped in the Dogma of the Bible. Lewis, a laid back Protestant, goes with the flow, less judgmental and easy to get along with.
What makes this play work so well is that Payne portrays both characters as they were. Tolkien, a strict ed, by the book writer as well as human being took eleven years to write “Lord of The Rings”. He did his research on the subject matter to the point where the book could be nothing but a success. Lewis on the other hand wrote “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” in one year, followed on by the five follow up books within three years. Lewis wrote by feel, Tolkien wrote on concreteness, he researched and deliberated. Both were extremely successful in the way they wrote. Payne adds more to the show in the way that both banter about other writers, some great ones the day. We hear about Cecil not wanting Daniel to become a thespian actor, he was referring to the great Daniel Day Lewis, we hear about other actors and writers that they knew on first name basis, some they even collaborated with.
Payne also bring forth what kept the two apart for years, Tolkien was upset about Lewis telling him that he was not like St.John and Lewis was made that J.R.R. never accepted Joy, Lewis’s wife because she was once married. The last part of the play really bears down on each others feelings about each other, how they encouraged and helped each other in there writings, Both writers had rough childhood, it was Longfellow who helped Lewis and it was Tolkien”s inner mind that helped him along. The two professed there love for each other, a male bond of two men that in the end could never be broken. Although Lewis who recently suffered a heart attack was not the same man he once was, he is still sharp, insightful and witty. Tolkien, is self assured, righteous and charismatic.Marc Whitmore the director has us liking them both.