My experiences writing, directing and producing Christian musicals for kids through adults.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Bus Trip from Hell . . . literarily

Yes, I wrote "literarily" and not "literally".

We attended Taproot Theatre's production of The Great Divorce last night. It's based on a book by C.S. Lewis, and no, it has nothing to do with divorce and marriage. [The 'divorce' reference is in response to William Blake's work The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Heaven and Hell do not join; they are eternally and even increasingly separate. Thus, the "great divorce".]

Instead, the story is about a man who finds himself on a bus ride from a horrible dreary place of angry and other dysfunctional people to a glorious, beautiful place. But it's not as easy as that. The travelers find upon arrival that they are too insubstantial to survive in this beautiful place; the very grass pokes into their ghostly feet. Inhabiting this beautiful place are beautiful, joyful people. They invite the ghosts to stay and grow more substantial; all they need do is give up their selfishness, let their egos die, and worship God instead of themselves.

Few do so. Many choose to go back to hell. George MacDonald guides C.S. Lewis through this journey - which, of course, is a dream, for once dead, people cannot really choose to leave Hell for Heaven. However, the play depicts the choices we make in everyday life in eternal terms.

Taproot Theatre (found at ) does a WONDERFUL job with this show. The acting is excellent. With the exception of C.S. Lewis, all the actors play multiple parts, and play them astonishingly well. It's amazing to see, for instance, Sam Vance go from angry Bilker, to joyful, welcoming Dick, to cringing and manipulative Frank; or for Pam Nolte, wife of director Scott Nolte and co-founder of Taproot, to go from a fearful and prideful woman in one scene, to an impressive Fire Angel in another.

The entire cast was awesome, but I have to also mention Nathan Jeffrey who impressed us greatly with his Tragedian character, and Faith Russell. Faith played three hugely disparate roles: a woman so obsessed with wanting to control and "improve" her husband even after death that she literally combusts; a joyful, majestic Waterfall Angel; and Sarah, a woman of great love and joy and humility.

While Taproot has always excelled in actors playing multiple parts (they put on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with a mere TEN actors!), this is the first time I've ever seen Taproot use puppetry - the sophisticated sort - in a production. We were blown away.

If you can, call the box office at 206.781.9707 to see if there are any tickets left.

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