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The taming of The Lion 

ACT and the SLO Little Theater stage The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

click to enlarge WOULD YOU LIKE SOME TURKISH DELIGHT? :  Edmund Pevensie (Spencer Doyle) gets duped by the White Witch (a role shard by Alison Maddren and Mackenzie Allen) in ACT’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, directed by Shelagh Garren. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ACADEMY OF CREATIVE THEATER
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ACADEMY OF CREATIVE THEATER
  • WOULD YOU LIKE SOME TURKISH DELIGHT? : Edmund Pevensie (Spencer Doyle) gets duped by the White Witch (a role shard by Alison Maddren and Mackenzie Allen) in ACT’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, directed by Shelagh Garren.

If you’ve ever looked at a map of the world and been disappointed that there wasn’t anything on the other side (like another Earth!) then this story was written for you.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis’ beloved children’s fantasy novel, is the Academy of Creative Theater’s latest undertaking. An under-18 cast brings the land of Narnia to the Little Theatre stage, telling the classic tale of four English kids who discover a wardrobe that serves as a portal to a land of unicorns, fauns, talking beavers, and Christian symbolism.

Since this is youth theater, this writer brought along a youth to the play’s opening night, and she just ate it up. While the production is definitely for kids, adults should at least find the play entertaining, thanks mostly to its unstoppable cuteness, Lewis’s writing, and the wee Emma Jane Haas, whose portrayal of Lucy Pevensie (the youngest of the four children) pretty much holds the show together.

For the uninitiated, Wardrobe, set in the ’40s, begins with the four Pevensie children (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) being shipped off to their uncle’s countryside home to escape the air raids in London. While peeping about in a wardrobe in the spare room, Lucy accidentally walks into a snowy Narnia. The first person she meets is the friendly faun Mr. Tumnus (played by Joe McAuley). Despite orders from the White Witch, Narnia’s evil dictator, to kidnap any “sons of Adam” or “daughters of Eve,” Tumnus allows her to go free.

click to enlarge DAM IT! :  Allison Warren and Lauren Romero are Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, a talking animal couple, in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ACADEMY OF CREATIVE THEATER
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ACADEMY OF CREATIVE THEATER
  • DAM IT! : Allison Warren and Lauren Romero are Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, a talking animal couple, in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Haas is simply fantastic as a wide-eyed, curious, sincere Lucy. (And she’s only in sixth grade! What will she do next?)

Lucy’s brother Edmund (Spencer Doyle), upon discovering the land of Narnia, has the ill fortune to run into the White Witch herself (high school senior Alison Maddren, who has the distinction to be credited as “White Witch/Assistant Director” in the show’s program). The witch pulls Edmund into her plot to capture his brother and sisters, in an attempt to thwart a prophecy that the country’s true ruler, the great lion Aslan, will return and overthrow the witch. Edmund introduces brother Peter (Deven Gates-Kennedy) and sister Susan (Madeleine Whalen) to the land of Narnia, in hopes of luring them to the White Witch’s castle, where Edmund believes he will be rewarded with all the Turkish Delight he can eat.

Doyle’s Edmund is a perfect moody-kid character, easily bored and unimpressed with the things that would delight his siblings. Edmund finds the bookish Susan and responsible Peter utterly dull, and has no problems turning them over to the forces of evil for the promise of power and a lifetime’s supply of dessert.

Unfortunately for Edmund, Peter and Susan don’t seem to be picking up on his subtle suggestions that they follow him. They are soon charmed by a beaver couple, who invites the children to dinner. But Edmund, mind poisoned by Turkish Delight, sneaks away to the witch’s castle.

- NARNIA AWAITS!:  ACT’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, directed by Shelagh Garren, runs the weekends of Jan. 21 to 23 and 28 to 30 at the SLO Little Theatre, located at 888 Morro St. in downtown SLO. For tickets, call 786-2440 or go to slolittletheatre.org. -
  • NARNIA AWAITS!: ACT’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, directed by Shelagh Garren, runs the weekends of Jan. 21 to 23 and 28 to 30 at the SLO Little Theatre, located at 888 Morro St. in downtown SLO. For tickets, call 786-2440 or go to slolittletheatre.org.

Thus begins a race between good and evil. The three children and the beavers race to find Aslan and join his forces, while the White Witch, with Edmund in tow, tries to head them off and stop the prophecy’s fulfillment.

Ethan Scott is a regal Aslan, wise ruler and overt Christ figure whose self-sacrifice and resurrection are downright biblical. Not to give anything away.

While C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series was intended for young readers, the books could easily be appreciated by adults. In fact, some scenes from his books were criticized for their mature themes and depictions of violence. Conversely, ACT’s Wardrobe, under the direction of Shelagh Garren, mutes the book’s most powerful scenes, creating a play that is adorable and safe, but with a lessened impact.

A snippet of conversation overheard in the lobby summed it up well: “Pretty professional for a bunch of kids.” And indeed, under the tutelage of ACT, the young actors’ performances are impressive. If you have kids, do take them to see this show! The rest of you, well, just wait it out until next month’s This is Rock ’n ’Roll.

Arts Editor Anna Weltner shares qualities with all three of the elements  in this show’s title. Contact her at aweltner
@newtimesslo.com.

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