The Silver Chair, Lifeline Theatre. James E. Grote’s adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s fourth Narnia chronicle makes brief reference to earlier volumes but is sufficiently self-contained for playgoers hitherto unacquainted with the series. The heroes are two misfit children who flee their schoolmates’ bullying for the magic kingdom of Narnia, charged with the task of freeing a lost prince from an evil witch’s seductive spell.
Lewis’s theological subtext is touched on only lightly in Lifeline Theatre’s production. (The liberators bungle the directives handed down by Aslan, the wise ruler of Narnia, but triumph through their unswerving faith.) More immediate are the obstacles encountered in the course of the mission: treacherous mountains, freezing weather, labyrinthine caves (Narnia being not unlike northern Scotland), bloodthirsty giants, duplicitous advisers, and a deadly 20-foot serpent whose slaughter requires the combined efforts of all the spell breakers.
The combined efforts of Lifeline’s technical staff–predominantly Ann Bertek’s anthill-like set, Rebekah Johnson and Betsy Covert’s clever puppets, and R&D Choreography’s imaginative “violence design”–sometimes threaten to eclipse the human actors (though Mark Richard all but steals the show as Puddleglum, the gloomy marshwiggle who acts as the youngsters’ guide and mentor). Fortunately Kevin Theis’s nimble direction keeps the action moving swiftly enough to enchant juvenile and adult playgoers alike.
–Mary Shen Barnidge