Monday, January 28, 2013

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe—Oregon Children’s Theatre—downtown Portland.


Deep Magic

C.S. Lewis’s classic play, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is playing at the Newmark Theatre on Broadway in downtown Portland.  It is produced by OCT and directed by Matthew B. Zrebski.  This adaptation is written by Joseph Robinette and will play through February 17th.  For further information contact www.octc.org or call 503-228-9571.

There is no doubt that Lewis wrote some of the great classic literature for the young when he penned the stories of the world of Narnia.  He was great pals in college with J.R.R. Tolkien who, at the same time, was writing the Lord of the Rings books.  Both these classics have enjoyed stage, film, TV, animated, and audio book adaptations.  They not only speak to the young but also to people of all ages and cultures.

This presentation is a shortened and scaled-down version of the story, lasting a little more than an hour.  But it is, nonetheless, satisfying and gives a glimpse into the world of the make-believe.  In reality, many children in WWII England, were sent to the country to live with relatives or other friends to spare them the horrors of the bombing of the cities.  Lewis was part of this network and, thus, was born the transportation of “two daughters of Eve,” Lucy (Hannah Baggs) and Susan (Jesse Turner) and “two sons of Adam,” Edmund (Chase Klotter) and Peter (Sean Sele) to an estate in the country and, inadvertently, to Narnia.

Narnia is ruled by the wicked and feared White Witch (Cecily Overman), where the land is constantly Winter.  With her cohorts Ferris Ulf, a wolf (Ben Buckley) and the Dwarf (Melissa Kaiser) they hold the inhabitants in their icy grip.  But salvation is just around the corner with the advent of Aslan, the Lion (Matthew D. Pavik).  But before order can be restored and the land returned to Summer and the warmth of the sun, a sacrifice must be offered and battles and deaths will ensue.  Any references to religions and the politics of the day were probably intentional.

The four children were all good, carrying well the heavy line-load the parts demanded and having the right look for the roles.  But the British accents, although adequate, were all over the map.  Mr. Pavik, as Aslan, had the right voice and look for the role but seemed to be  missing, at times, the urgency and nobility the part demands.  London Bauman, in the key role of Tumnus, had the right feel and appearance in the role of the faun.

Particularly effective was Ms. Overman as the Witch/Queen.  She had the chilling power in body and voice to make one believe that she, indeed, did rule.  And Mr. Buckley, as her evil minion, oozed energy and nastiness with every move and inflection.  The death scene of the wolf in the Queen’s arms was the most touching in the show.  Impressive, also, was Ms. Kaiser in the contrasting roles of the naughty Dwarf and the jovial Elf (as well, in the silent role of the elusive, White Stag).  And she played all three roles with equal effectiveness.

Probably, overall, the best scene was the battle toward the end as a dance/movement piece.  It was beautifully choreographed by (I assume) the Director, Mr. Zrebski, who kept the whole play moving at a brisk pace.  The set (Tal Sanders) was well designed, allowing for easy movement of the actors.  And the costumes (Ashton Grace Hull) were also good, giving the impression of the character and yet allowing the performer to interpret the role in movement and facial expressions.

A side note, the play, Shadowlands, about the relationship between Lewis and the love of his life, will be presented at Magenta Theatre in downtown Vancouver in mid-April.  I would recommend L/W/W and, if you do go to either show, please tell them Dennis sent you.