By Ron Reed. Adapted from the novel by C.S. Lewis. Directed by Sarah Rodgers. A Pacific Theatre production. At Pacific Theatre on Saturday, December 1. Continues until December 29
Simple magic. This production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe creates a wonderful confection from humble ingredients.
Playwright Ron Reed’s minimalist adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s beloved novel—there are only two actors—opens with the adult Lucy and Peter, the youngest and eldest of the Pevensie children, popping in at Uncle Digory’s house on their way home to see the rest of the family at Christmas. It seems that the wardrobe, once their portal to the magical land of Narnia, is now “just a wardrobe”—until they begin to act out their shared recollections of its enchantments.
There’s a bit too much “Remember when we did this?” off the top, but once Peter and Lucy enter Narnia, the magic begins. Using nothing but hats, coats, and rugs, they take on the roles of their siblings, Susan and Edmund (who unleashes havoc by eating the Turkish delight proffered by the evil queen), and a host of Narnians, including Mr. Tumnus the faun, the White Witch, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, and the great lion king, Aslan.
Director Sarah Rodgers inventively stages multicharacter scenes: when Aslan battles the White Witch, a lone actor wrestles with an empty coat. And the transformations are seamless. John Voth (Peter) is an incredibly resourceful chameleon: the instant he plops Edmund’s beanie on his head, the pouty face and petulant voice come right along with it. And his Mr. and Mrs. Beaver have such different voices and physical mannerisms that he can play them in conversation with each other. Rebecca deBoer (Lucy) also plays a host of roles, sometimes changing character before her new costume is on; I especially enjoyed her haughty White Witch.
Lauchlin Johnston’s set makes whole worlds from the wardrobe, a wooden chest, and some sheets, in a wood-panelled room that evokes a posh home in postwar Britain. Costume designer Sheila White does wonders with what comes out of the wardrobe, and John Webber’s lighting gently warms as Narnia’s eternal winter begins to thaw. I especially appreciated the spareness of Julie Casselman’s music, which beautifully underscores scenes of heightened emotion without ever intruding on them.
If you’re looking for a stripped-down but thoroughly heartwarming Christmas show, this is the one.