Blue Room Young Company takes audience to C.S. Lewis’ fantasy world
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis’ Christian allegory about the need for and attainment of spiritual redemption, is a complex and ambitious tale. Filled with outré scenery, garish costumes, epic battle scenes and intense personal interactions, the story is the perfect vehicle for youthful imaginations. A vehicle that I originally thought might be far beyond the technical capabilities of a small theater company to replicate on stage. Happily, last weekend’s production by the Blue Room Young Company proved me wrong.
The set—with Amber Miller’s winter-toned mural of graceful mountain peaks, pines and looming castle on the back wall providing an enveloping aura of fantasy—was kept simple, allowing our imaginations to fill in the details of each scene. A crew of wood nymphs enthusiastically and amusingly rearranged the small living trees and minimal furniture to suit each scene.
The 18-person cast—ranging from kids to teens—was testament to the Young Company’s stated mission of “helping young performers achieve new levels of artistry through performance, practice and enthusiasm for the craft.”
The story is set in WWII-era England during the time of The Blitz. To escape the bombing of London, four children—Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy—have been sent to the sprawling country home of a family friend. While exploring the house, Lucy (Ivy Sayre) discovers a huge wardrobe that she enters only to find herself transported to Narnia, a fantasy world populated by witches, fauns, unicorns and assorted talking animals. There, she meets an emotionally conflicted faun, Mr. Tumnus (Lucille Scott), who is obligated by the White Witch (Ava Hilsee) to bring all human children to her so she can imprison them.
Under the direction of Tom Billheimer II, the young cast members admirably maintained their consistent use of proper English-accented speech while remaining in character. As the White Witch, Hilsee was convincingly imperious, haughty and domineering. Through voice and body language, her polar opposite and nemesis, Aslan the lion (Christian Harrington), equally convincingly projected the wisdom, compassion and patience that are fundamental to his Christ-like character.
The animal and mythical creature costumes, designed by Miller, worked well to enhance the fantasy characters, and the vintage children’s costumes, on loan from Bootleg clothing store, gave them a sense of authenticity. The dialogue and action as adapted by Joseph Robinette from Lewis’ original novel provided the characters with plenty of genuine emotional nuance.
The crux of the play is Edmund’s betrayal of Aslan—the rightful king of Narnia—and his siblings while under the influence of a magical confection called “Turkish Delight” given to him by the White Witch. Freeing Edmund from the enchantment involves a holy war and the eventual self-sacrifice of Aslan. The witch’s power of keeping Narnia in eternal winter—with no Christmas—is broken when in a somewhat heavy-handed symbolic moment Father Christmas arrives to give the children magical presents/weapons that they can use to defeat the White Witch and her army.
Aslan’s climactic sacrifice and resurrection reflect in fairytale form the story of Christian tradition, giving a resonance to both stories that touchingly plays on our universal hope for redemption and resolution of this world’s conflicted nature.