by Victor Villavieja
British actor David Payne’s performance of “An Evening with C.S Lewis” transported a standing-room-only crowd at Louisiana College’s Martin Performing Arts Center back to Lewis’s living room in Oxford, England in 1963.
More than 500 people from as far as New Orleans and Benton, including a family of seven from Monroe came to Louisiana College to see the play, as the actor transported the crowd back to Lewis’s living room in Oxford, England.
Because LC’s Martin Performing Arts Center was standing-room-only, 75 others assembled in Bolton Chapel to watch the February 22 presentation via live feed.
From an upholstered armchair, Payne illustrated some of the occurrences that marked the life and work of Clive Staples Lewis.
Far from a thorough biography, Payne relies on a relaxed and eloquent monologue to unfold the selected reasons behind Lewis’ inspiration, his personality, and his faith. He, with his acting, invites every attendant to participate in a fictitious conversation with the deceased storyteller.
The British actor appropriates the novelist’s memories, sharing Lewis’ experiences with the public as if they were his.
Speaking in the first person, Payne recalls Lewis’ childhood and his years as a student in Oxford, his professional career as a professor, and in particular, his friendship with J. R. R. Tolkien.
Payne tells how Tolkien’s influence drove Lewis away from atheism, and how Tolkien helped the author of Mere Christianity to embrace the Christian faith. American writer Joy Davidman, who died of bone cancer after marrying Lewis, also is mentioned at length in Payne’s theatrical representation.
Between sips of tea, Payne tells the story of Lewis with humor and emotion. Using his gifted wit, the actor evokes both laughter and thought in the house.
While seated shoeless in his chair, Payne transforms himself into Lewis. The combination of his physical resemblance to the author, his British accent, and his mannerisms actually carry the audience into the presence of a significant contributor to Christian thought.
After more than 500 presentations, “An Evening With C.S Lewis” is still going strong. The performance at LC was the first of a U.S. tour that has more than 80 shows already booked.
“An Evening With C.S Lewis” was the first play of the year at LC. “The Music Man” premieres at the Martin Performing Art Center March 16.
Victor Villavieja is a Convergence Media major at Louisiana College who is also an intern at the Baptist Message.