HAMMOND -- The Genesius Guild production of "Shadowlands," by William Nicholson, directed by Robert T. Clark, is a touching story, poignantly presented.

It is the 1950's. Writer C. S. "Jack" Lewis (Larry Hinken) -- already well in his fifties -- lives the comfortable life of the bachelor academic at Oxford, sharing a house with his brother, Major Warren Hamilton "Warnie" Lewis (Roger T. Moore), also a respected writer. Their circle of acquaintances includes other estimable academics like Christopher Riley (Tyler Grant Fitch), Reverend Harry Harrington (Ed Griffith), Dr. Maurice Oakley (Kim Irwin Dildine), and Alan Gregg (Craig Muenzer).

They meet once or twice a week, imbibe of the grape and the heady brew of philosophical discourse, easily accepting each other's idiosyncracies while vigorously rejecting one another's postulates about such small matters as the nature of God, meaning of life, etc. This bastion of British academic male primacy is soundly rattled when Joy Gresham (Heather Brickman), a long-distance correspondent, penetrates their inner sanctum.

Gresham, a Lewis devotee, visits England and, while there, seeks audience with her idol. Jack agrees and, with Warnie, meets Joy -- and her young son, Douglas (Christopher A. Rosevear), for tea.. The meeting is a pleasant experience for all, and the relationship deepens -- to the complete consternation of Jack's peers, who find it abominable on several counts. First, she is a woman, which Jack's associates -- other than Warnie -- find intrusive, if nothing worse. Second, while she may be a poet, her work is unknown to them. That speaks volumes to them about the unimportance of her achievement. Third, and the most unforgivable flaw of all, she is an American, which they view as a guarantee of social, spiritual and intellectual bankruptcy.

A battle-scarred veteran of World War I, Jack is strong enough to regard his friends' misgivings with detachment and, eventually, marries Joy, with whom he has fallen deeply in love. From the beginning, Joy's health is a major threat to prospects for a life together but, as doctors themselves point out, one should not discount the healing powers of the human heart and mind.

Brickman presents an attractive Joy, stronger in the second act, where she taps into the depths of her character, than in Act 1, where her delivery of the lines makes her appear more flippant than substantial.

Hinken , who presents a warm and solid Jack becomes too intimate when Lewis describes his reactions at the loss of his mother at age eight, and again, when Lewis comments about the loss of his wife. It is difficult to hear what he is saying then.

Rosevear is believable as Douglas, but the blocking for his immersion in Lewis's "Narnia" works is hard to understand. While it's clear what is meant by the wardrobe and Douglas's relationship to it, the logic of his movement from "reality" to fantasy is hard to follow, in terms of the way it is blocked.

Moore captures Warnie's fundamental solidity, but is cursed with having to attempt British English, a handicap that touches the rest of the cast to varying degrees. Despite that, the rest of the cast, which also includes Kim Irwin Dildine and Sondra Hinken, do a creditable job of making the characters real, with Fitch's Riley particularly noteworthy.

The set, designed by Darren Fields, was well crafted to minimize transitions, permitting seamless changes from one time and place to another.

"Shadowlands" runs through October 30, with performances Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $8.00 for adults, $6.00 for students and senior citizens. For reservations, call 219- 322-0795.

Courtesy of The Times.

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