AN EVENING WITH C.S. LEWIS | Broadway Playhouse, October 22nd, 2019
4 out of 4 stars
(Originally published on Chicago Stage Standard)
AN EVENING WITH C.S. LEWIS is charming and enriching! Broadway in Chicago and Emery Entertainment brings audiences closer to the infamous author through an evening chat at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place for a limited two-week engagement through November 3, 2019.
The year is 1962 and C.S. Lewis, the famous British author, is hosting a group of American writers at his home near Oxford. They are about to experience a captivating evening with a man whose engaging conversation and spontaneous humor made him one of the great raconteurs of his day. Seated in his living room, he recalls the people and events that inspired his thoughts and shaped his life; of his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien, why he nearly abandoned the Narnia Chronicles, how he came to embrace Christianity and of the American woman who turned his life upside down.
Adorned with tiffany lamps and stocked bookshelves, audiences are welcomed into our host’s living room circa 1969. David Payne’s self-penned works really strike at the core of who Lewis was and his impact upon the world. The humanity in this work is what drives the evening forward; A chronological glance at a full life with poems, quotes and ponderings. Lewis experienced tragic loss in his early years leading to a period of atheism. He was also a WWI veteran and avid reader. His most famous friendships and author circles really highlight the man Lewis was. Payne’s script explores life’s cruelty, commonality and light.
What I found most fascinating about this performance was hearing about the friendship between Lewis and Professor J.R.R. Tolkien. It strikes your mind that Tolkien and Lewis both came out of WWI with very differing views on faith. Their mutual interest in Nordic mythology is what brought them together and it is through this kinship that Lewis transitioned into a strong Christian belief. David Payne writes a challenging thought in which religion is a counter to mythology, yet isn’t the true myth God? Whatever your personal belief, I think Payne does an excellent job at pointing out it is through the healthy contrasting friendships he formed with fellow writers and creatives helped challenge his preconceived view of the world and shift it. A true honest look at a man figuring out this messy thing called life.
London born actor/playwright David Payne’s first encounter with C.S. Lewis was when, as a teenager, he was given a copy of Lewis’ best-selling book Screwtape Letters. Little did he realize that some 40 years later he would be gaining a reputation for his portrayals of its famous author. He has played Lewis in a number of productions of Shadowlands, in his self-penned Weep for Joy, in more than 500 presentations of An Evening with C.S. Lewis (My Life’s Journey) and St. Jack & The Dragon a touching yet sometimes hilarious account about the relationship between Lewis and his adopted mother, Janie Moore.
The power words hold is what this production is based within. Payne is a mesmerizing storyteller. With a beautiful script and wonderful delivery, he captures audiences with a balance between history and anecdotes. C.S. Lewis experienced pain, mourning and even challenges with faith, yet the enduring sense of humanity and humility is what sets him apart as a timeless writer.
Payne’s latest self-penned Lewis based show is Wardrobe & Rings, which focuses on the very last meeting between Lewis and his great friend, J.R.R. Tolkien. Needless to say I would definitely go see that production. Payne’s AN EVENING WITH C.S. LEWIS enriches the soul and brilliantly exemplifies the life and legacy of a man who died over 50 years ago, whose works still hold truth, magic and faith speak to readers old and new. C.S. Lewis is a literary giant of the 20th century and David Payne is a credit to him.
AN EVENING WITH C.S. LEWIS is at Broadway In Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (175 E. Chestnut) for a limited two-week engagement through November 3, 2019. For more information, visit www.aneveningwithcslewis.com.