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“C.S. Lewis’ The Great Escape has been delighting – and puzzling – readers ever since its 1945 publication. The title is enigmatic. The “divorce” from what? And what is so “great” about it?” – Max McLean, Founder and Artistic Director of Fellowship for Performing Arts
The Great Divorce Review:
C.S. Lewis, best known for his Chronicles of Narnia children books, was an atheist turned Christian in 1931. Following his conversion, he wrote several Christian apologetic books including Mere Christianity (1952) and The Screwtape Letters (1942). The famous The Great Divorce (1945) is an allegorical fantasy for adults based on a dream he had concerning Heaven and Hell. As Fellowship for Performing Arts‘ Founder and Artistic Director Max McLean wrote,
“The novel is a response to the popular view expressed in William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell where the poet tries to imagine a point at which the differences between good and evil will somehow be resolved.”
To bring to life this fantastical allegory, Max McLean and his team have come up with a one act drama featuring four actors in twenty-one roles as they take a bus from the Grey Town to the outskirts of Heaven. Kelly James Tighe‘s bare stage is complimented beautifully by the gorgeous projection designs by Rachael Cady allowing the scene to follow seamlessly from one location to another.
The three cast members who comprise the colorful ensemble of twenty characters are clothed by Costume Designer Nicole Wee in a wide assortment of robes and costumes that make it easy to differentiate each character and sometimes you as an audience member can almost forget that this is the same actor or actress playing a different part despite having just seen him or her on stage in another role just seconds earlier.
Kudos to Casting Director Carol Hanzel because all four actors in Max McLean‘s adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce were perfect for their roles with each having a great chance to show off their comedic and dramatic talents. Jonathan Hadley is a gregarious actor who had the audience chuckling several times during his performance, Carol Halstead was given one of the most heart-wrenching roles as “Mother Ghost” who has idolized her son and wants to bring him back to the Grey Town with her, Tom Souhrada does a great job with “Ghost With Lizard” that is perhaps the most famous of the vignettes from The Great Divorce, and Joel Rainwater is a terrific narrator (a clear stand-in for C.S. Lewis) keeping the show going smoothly.
The show’s message can best be summed up by George MacDonald [Jonathan Hadley] when he says,
“There are only two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.‘”
Expect to be entertained, to laugh, to see yourself inside many of the characters, to be intellectually challenged and philosophically tempted by two primary questions:
- Given the freedom to choose Heaven or Hell, what will we really do?
- Are the gates of Hell locked from the inside?
The Great Divorce 2021 Tour Cast:
Joel Rainwater as Narrator
Joel Rainwater has previously performed in FPA’s previous Off-Broadway and touring productions of THE GREAT DIVORCE (Narrator/Lizard Man). His other credits include the 2nd National Tour of THE LION KING (Zazu, Timon, Pumba), and Apple TV+ LITTLE AMERICA (Leith).
Carol Halstead as Mother Ghost (and other characters)
Carol Halstead‘s credits include Gore Vidal’s THE BEST MAN (Catherine/Reporters u/s) on Broadway, THE DUCHESS OF MALFI (Cariola) Off-Broadway, and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (Mrs. Bennet) at Shakespeare Santa Cruz.
Tom Souhrada as Ghost with Lizard (and other characters)
Tom Souhrada‘s Broadway and National Tours credits include MARY POPPINS (The Park Keeper, George Banks u/s), EVITA, MY FAIR LADY, and THE KING AND I.
Jonathan Hadley as George MacDonald (and other characters)
Jonathan Hadley appeared on Broadway in JERSEY BOYS as Bob Crewe, a role he performed over 2,000 times on the National and International Tours. Other credits include CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA Off-Broadway (Britannus), THE BODYGUARD 1st National Tour (Sy Spector), and IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS World Premiere (Ralph Sheldrake).
The Great Divorce Details:
Running Time: 90 minutes; no intermission
Age Recommendation (according to the producers): 13+ (children under 4 are not allowed)
Groups: Groups of 10+ receive discounted tickets. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Coronavirus Vaccine and Mask Requirements: Check with your local theatre to confirm whether they have any mandates and requirements.
The Great Divorce 2021 Tour Dates:
Grand Rapids – Nov 6 @ Devos Performance Hall
Indianapolis – Nov 13 @ Clowes Memorial Hall
St. Louis – Nov 20 @ Touhill Performing Arts Center
Cleveland – Dec 4 @ Playhouse Square – KeyBank State Theatre
Disclaimer. I received my tickets for review purposes but all opinions are my own.
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