C.S. Lewis Onstage: The Most Reluctant Convert is a one-man play written, performed and co-directed by Max McLean at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Produced and co-directed by Ken Denison, McLean portrays C. S. Lewis, the much adored British author and scholar best known for his mega-selling fantasy fiction, (notably The Chronicles of Narnia) but also widely revered for his religious writings.Review-July2019-520pix-TheBroadStage-CSLewis-photobyJeremyDaniels
Photo by Jeremy Daniels, courtesy of The Broad Stage

The story that is told on stage is between the years of when Lewis is a little boy of eight years old up until the time he converts to Christianity at 31 years old. At just eight years old, he loses his beloved mother to cancer and has a very rough relationship with his father, one that he has regretted most of his life. As a young man, he has a terrible experience in the trenches of France in World War I.

Lewis recounts his own life story from childhood until his conversion from atheism to Christianity. He shares with us several relevant encounters in his life, including an illuminating walk and talk with his good friend, J.R.R. Tolkein. Tolkien says, “the gospel story is a myth working on us like other myths, with one difference: it really happened.” This was a moment that changed Lewis’ life forever and to me, the biggest revelation in the play.
Photo by Jeremy Daniels, courtesy of The Broad Stage

The play is set in 1950 in Lewis’ study at Oxford – an academic position he was appointed to at age 26 and held until his death. Kelly James Tighe’s scenic design, Geoffrey D. Fishburn’s lighting design, and Rocco Disanti’s projection design worked well together to create this study; a world of books, knickknacks, picture frames, crystal decanters of various sizes and shapes containing a variety of spirits. Through several lighting changes and projections behind the studio windows, we feel the passage of time. Also the costume design by Michael Bevins, wig and make-up design by Leah J.Loukas and Tommy Kurzman, all give us a sense of who C.S. Lewis was. And notable to the success of this production are Claudia Hill-Sparks, dialect coach, Lew Mead, stage manager and John Gromada’s original music and sound design. This play might be particularly interesting to students of 20th century British literature.

C.S. Lewis Onstage: The Most Reluctant Convert, presented by Fellowship for Performing Arts, runs through July 21, 2019 at the The Broad Stage, 1310 11TH Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401; Thursday at 7:00pm; Friday at 8:00pm; Saturday at 4:00 and 8:00pm; Sunday at 3:00 pm; https://www.thebroadstage.org/