Recommended **** C.S. Lewis was a fascinating man – according to his biography, an author, an essayist, a poet, literary critic, academic, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist. His intellectual journey from youthful atheist to Catholic convert is the subject of “C.S. Lewis Onstage: The Most Reluctant Convert”, a one-man show starring Max McLean, running at the Mercury Theater through August 14th. Both interesting and erudite, I give “C.S. Lewis Onstage” 4 Spotlights.
Most of “C.S. Lewis Onstage” takes place in 1950, in his study at Magdalen College, Oxford. In a series of vignettes representing different times in his life, Lewis takes us through his personal journey from the Church of Ireland (Anglican) of his childhood to a young man’s embrace of atheism to his discovery of a higher power.
Unlike many of us, who remember having deep philosophical discussions about the meaning of life while feeling no pain, C.S. Lewis spent his life searching for insight. In McLean’s brilliant portrayal, Lewis’s wry sense of humor is front and center. Lewis is articulate, erudite, insightful, and above all funny.
In his pursuit of knowledge, Lewis took every book he read personally. If the author agreed with him, all well and good. If the author disagreed with his beliefs, he automatically became a critical part of the struggle. His exasperated reasoning went something along the lines of … how could so-and-so, who was so brilliant, possibly believe this drivel … and if he does, why? Eventually, after wrestling with the idea, he would absorb, adapt and make it his own.
Lewis’ study is furnished with a desk and chair, a comfy armchair for reading, a credenza with a drinks tray and books everywhere. The back wall is a projection of a large window looking out on scenic Oxford. The walls are covered with framed pictures. As Lewis mentions someone important in his life – his father, his mother, his brother, his beloved tutor – that picture gradually enlarges. Occasionally, the scene out the window would change to another location important in Lewis’ life.
Max McLean’s last appearance in Chicago was back in 2008, in a rather surprising hit, “The Screwtape Letters”, which also played at the Mercury. In that witty and biting satire, a commentary on human foibles, McLean played His Abysmal Sublimity, Screwtape, with just a hint of brimstone.
“C.S. Lewis Onstage: The Most Reluctant Convert” runs through August 14th at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. Running time is 70 minutes, no intermission.
Wednesday 7 p.m.
Thursday 7 p.m.
Friday at 8:00 pm
Saturday at 4:00 and 8:00 p.m.
Sunday at 3:00 pm.
Tickets range from $55-$59. Limited number of “$30 under 30” tickets available. Valet parking is available, street parking is difficult to find (this is summer in Wrigleyville, so parking prices have tripled). FYI Mercury Theater (773) 325-1700, www.mercurytheaterchicago.com; www.fpatheatre.com, (866) 476-8707, www.CSLewisOnstage.com.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “C.S.Lewis Onstage:The Most Reluctant Convert”.