C. S. Lewis onstage The Most Reluctant Convert

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Adapted for the stage and performed by Max McLean.

Co-Directed by Ken Denison and Max McLean.

Produced by Fellowship For Performing Arts.

At the Mercury Theatre, Chicago.

Tremendous acting makes dry material sizzle.

Among the many reasons to attend C. S. Lewis onstage The Most Reluctant Convert is to experience the fantastic acting of Max McLean. He is among the finest skilled actors working in American theatre today. McLean tackles extremely challenging roles that require articulation, nuance and verbal dexterity. I have seen Max McLean impress in such complex works my C. S. Lewis (1898 – 1963) as The Screwtape Letters and Mark’s Gospel. He was electrifying in both. Now with C. S. Lewis onstage The Most Reluctant Convert McLean takes on the challenge of presenting Lewis’ transformation from atheism back to Anglican Christianity.

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It is 1950 at Lewis’s study at Oxford (terrific set designed by Kelly James Tighe) using terrific projections by Rosso DiSanti -which unfortunately malfunctioned on opening night, this one-man show takes us on a autobiographical journey through C. S. Lewis’s early days up to his transformation back to the Anglican Church.  We see how is early bringing up influenced his becoming a novelist, poet, literary critic, essayist, broadcaster, lecturer, academic and lay theologian. Lewis was an original thinker who loved debating and exchanging thoughts on concepts such as “joy,” “happiness,” “materialism,” “pain,” and, ultimately the concept of “god” and “Christianity.”

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Told in an authentic RP British accent, McLean has a knack for explaining complex theology and philosophy with with subtly and  self-depreciating humor. He easily takes us into Lewis’ world as he stimulates us into processing tough concepts. Talent, pace and acting skill keep us involved.  Max McLean is one of the few actors who can make compels material stage worthy.

Joy, Lewis wrote “must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again … I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”

Concepts such as the above are effectively explained by McLean during this 80 minute one-act solo show. This show is for fans of C. S. Lewis, for those who enjoy a “thinking-person’s” play, and for anyone who enjoys a tour de force performance. Actors need to see Max McLean to learn how to make subtle and complex material by an academic sizzle on stage. McLean delivers in C. S. Lewis onstage The Most Reluctant Convert without being ‘preachy.’

Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Date Reviewed: July 26, 2016.

For more info check the C. S. Lewis onstage The Most Reluctant Convert page at theatreinchicago.com.

At the Mercury Theatre, 3745 N. Southport, Chicago, IL,  call  (773) 325-1700; www.CSLewisOnstage.com, Tickets: $55 – $59, Run time: 80 minutes with no intermission.