As a modern play, I would bet that Shadowlands was considered quite a pleasant and harmless drama back in the day when it first debuted as a television film in 1985. Nothing all that challenging or disturbing, and I’m certain that it was viewed as a well crafted piece of storytelling when it made its stage debut at the Queen’s Theatre in London on 23rd of October, 1989, running for almost a year. The play, that won an Evening Standard Award for Best Play 1990 and a Tony award in 1991 for Best Actor (Nigel Hawthorne), centered around the real life story of an acclaimed British writer and his relationship with an American fan, whom he befriends and eventually marries. I do recall seeing the 1993 film, directed by Richard Attenborough starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger (Oscar nominated), but beyond the pretty spot on casting, that’s about all I am able to remember. I knew it had something to do with the struggle with personal pain and grief that comes from a love relationship, but beyond that, I could only recall that it felt quite proper and charming, like a Merchant/Ivory film without the beautiful vistas.
The current production of William Nicholson’s well crafted play, as directed by Christa Scott-Reed (New World’s Church and State) champions the same solid qualities unabashingly. Brought to Theatre Row’s Acorn stage by the Fellowship for Performing Arts, this play tells the sweet and sad story of C. S. Lewis, (or Jack as his friends prefer to call him) portrayed exceedingly well by Daniel Gerroll (Broadway’s Plenty). We find him sitting comfortably in middle age, happily living the life of a quiet bachelor in Oxford, sharing a home with his loyal and steadfast brother, Major Warnie Lewis (John C. Vennema). He is perfectly content writing and lecturing his life away, until the day, when an American woman interjects herself into the conversation, and all else is in the history books.