The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Local Arts Reviews

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Scottish Rite Theatre, through July 24, Running Time: 50 min

If you've ever read books, if you ever read books as a kid, then you know Narnia, the land of fairies and magic, witches and noble beasts, and an ongoing struggle between good and evil. Plopped into this mystical realm are upstanding English schoolchildren – polite and intrepid and often capable of great acts of bravery. This particular land of make-believe, wrought in rich detail by the novelist and Christian philosopher C. S. Lewis, feels gentler than the one in Tolkien's epic trilogy but still has its share of bloody battles. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy crawl through an innocuous-seeming wardrobe to find themselves wandering a faraway land, Narnia, frozen in perpetual winter, ruled by the evil White Witch. A prophecy has foretold the end of the witch's reign when four children – two boys and two girls – arrive to do battle with her, aided by the lion Aslan. So the witch hunts and assails the children, who evade her and her spies, summon Aslan the mighty lion (and not-so-subtle Christ figure), and wage a war with the darkest of foes to defeat evil and return spring and tranquility to the beautiful stricken land.

Second Youth Family Theatre has staged this most famous Narnia tale for the newly minted children's series at the Scottish Rite Theatre (look for regular Saturday 10am performances for children throughout the year). The tale has been adapted by le Clanche du Rand, to be performed by two energetic actors – Bobby Malone plays elder brother Peter and Brie Walker the young, swashbuckling Lucy – who narrate and act their way through this brisk version of the book. The stage is an actor's playpen, and a child's imagination's wonderland: With barely any props or costumes, the two rather modern-day actors become lion and witch, faun (think satyr if you've never been to Narnia) and beaver, and, of course, the four children. There are moments of magic and great battles, and plenty of humor of both the clowning variety and the more cerebral self-aware sort designed to keep moms and dads amused. (There may have been more laughter from the elder set than from the kids in the audience.) In short, there is something here for almost everyone.

In directing this production, G'ann Boyd keeps things simple, and she has her small cast ready to connect with everyone in the house right from the get-go. The actors do a lot of miming, but it's fun and creative play, and the kids get it. Without spoiling the many clever uses of ordinary props and costumes, it is safe to say that while the mop head may be an obvious choice, it still works; and the lamp shade ... well, you just have to see the lamp shade in action. Malone and Walker are two personable, kid- and parent-friendly actors, comfortable with raucous, kid-pleasing physicality and equally at ease with longer narrative. If there is a quibble with the production, it is that there are too many long narrative chunks, especially in the first half of the show. The youngest audience members tended to drift out of attention for those bits – if your young theatregoer is under 5 and unfamiliar with the story, you may find several passages in which you spend more time focusing on your restless child than on the storytelling. For those of us who know the tale or can appreciate the wealth of imagination at play on the stage, the morning's drama deftly moves story from page to stage with the ingenuity and unexpected flair of those brave English schoolchildren of not-so-long ago.

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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis, Second Youth Family Theatre, le Clanche du Rand, G'ann Boyd, Bobby Malone, Brie Walker

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