C.S. Lewis Onstage
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C.S. Lewis welcomes you into his Oxford study in Fellowship for Performing Arts’ newest one-man show C.S. Lewis Onstage: The Most Reluctant Convert starring Max McLean. Wandering around a worn leather armchair anchored center-stage, McLean engages the audience as Lewis in a warm grandfatherly way. He muses, rants, and sighs his way across the stage while recounting the story of his conversion to Christianity in 70 minutes of spellbinding performance.
For avid readers of Lewis and relative strangers alike, McLean successfully introduces the audience to a personable and intriguing portrait of the scholar. He goes on brainy rants, re-enacts debates with his friends, and then pauses for reflection before looking directly at the audience and dropping some ironic retort that leaves everyone chuckling.
Since the ending of the play is no surprise for anyone who reads the program note (C.S. Lewis does, in fact, become a Christian), the suspense lies not in the outcome but in the process. In the hearing of Lewis’ journey to Christianity, the audience is left with the curious notion that maybe the God of the universe really is interested in personal relationships—even with people as averse to the idea as C.S. Lewis.
McLean created the show primarily from Lewis’ autobiography Surprised by Joy and his Collected Letters as well as The Problem of Pain, The Weight of Glory, Mere Christianity, God in the Dock, Present Concerns, and Christian Reflections.
“Lewis is hard to read,” McLean says. “And [at first] I didn’t want to put in the work to read him.” But after he read and dramatized Screwtape Letters, McLean became fascinated with the work of Lewis. He went on to produce The Great Divorce last year and then condensed some of the complex philosophy of the scholar into this performance about Lewis’ intellectual conversion.
The play premiered last month at Mercury Theater in Chicago. It will be in Chicago until Aug. 14 and then tour in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Tulsa this year. The show will go to New York and tour more widely in 2017.
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