Brilliant performances give life to Appleseed Productions' 'Shadowlands'

Directed by Sharee Lemos

Presented by Appleseed Productions

Location Atonement Stage 116 W. Glen Ave, Syracuse

Running time  2 1/2 hours, with intermission

Dates September 9-24

Tickets Adults $18, Students/Seniors $15

It's almost coincidental that lighting design is the only glaring problem in Appleseed Productions's otherwise marvelous “Shadowlands.”

The story of C.S. Lewis’ struggle with suffering is told through his relationship with the only woman he ever loved. And Appleseed does a splendid justice to both the history behind the narrative and to William Nicholson’s script.

Director Sharee Lemos had a warhorse on her hands.

In the most famous film version of “Shadowlands,” Anthony Hopkins played the intellectual stoic, with Debra Winger as his feisty American love, Joy Gresham (a role that earned her a Oscar nomination).

The script offers the actors more than enough difficulties through which to traverse. In C.S. Lewis style, it is rich with religious symbolism and characters who say exactly what they mean. There is no mystery and no real subtext. It’s poetic, yet also straightforward –making it that much more difficult for actors to make interesting choices that translate on stage. But Syracuse’s local talent rises to the occasion.

Tom Minion is immediately compelling as “Jack” Lewis. He's captured certain appropriate subtleties of Lewis' and his manner is engaging, keeping the audience alongside him on his journey of love and heartbreak.

He opens the play with a speech about suffering, a theme constantly discussed in the play, both to the audience, like a sermon, in conversations among the characters and in the plot.

Like any romance, the impending affection between Jack and Joy is revealed when she informs him in a letter that she will be crossing the pond to visit him. His brother Major “Warnie” Lewis asks, “Is she nuts?”

Bob Lamson, who plays “Warnie,” offers the production his own brand of heartwarming comedic relief.

Binaifer Dabu gives a rousing performance as the plucky Joy, although her attempts to cover up an accent point to miscasting. As Joy is a thoroughbred, abrasive American – a fact that the script makes unavoidable.

Other than a few hiccups, the actors give stunning performances and Navroz N. Dabu’s set is as stunning as it is functional.

But Jeff LaDuca’s lighting design casts attention to the limitations of theater. The lights come up on the actors to signify the beginning of the scene and dim when it’s over.

Where a film can edit out the transitions, theater’s inability to escape real time is this production’s shortcoming.

But it’s an easily overlooked problem. The performances are captivating and the story is touching.