'Shadowlands:' With the darkness comes the light

The Texas Repertory Theatre in Houston is performing C.S. Lewis' play, "Shadowlands," through Feb. 19. Lewis was an atheist who became a Christian; he wrote numerous books and essays about religion and faith.
  • IF YOU GO

  • WHAT: "Shadowlands"WHEN: Through Feb. 19WHERE: The Texas Repertory Theatre, 14243 Stuebner Airline Road, HoustonCOST: $35

    INFO: texasreptheatre.orgWHAT: "Next to Normal"WHEN: Through March 4WHERE: Zachary Scott Theatre, 1510 Toomey Road, AustinINFO: zachtheatre.org

    WHAT: "Wicked"WHEN: Through Feb. 12WHERE: Bass Concert Hall, 2350 ...

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  • IF YOU GO

    WHAT: "Shadowlands"WHEN: Through Feb. 19WHERE: The Texas Repertory Theatre, 14243 Stuebner Airline Road, HoustonCOST: $35

    INFO: texasreptheatre.orgWHAT: "Next to Normal"WHEN: Through March 4WHERE: Zachary Scott Theatre, 1510 Toomey Road, AustinINFO: zachtheatre.org

    WHAT: "Wicked"WHEN: Through Feb. 12WHERE: Bass Concert Hall, 2350 Robert Dedman Drive, AustinCOST: $38.50-$165 INFO: texasperformingarts.org

    WHAT: "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs"WHEN: Through April 15WHERE: The Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Caroline Weiss Building, 1001 Bissonet St., HoustonCOST: $33 for adults; $18 for childrenINFO: vmfah.org

There are always dark hours of the soul, times when you lose someone who you won't ever get back. When someone you love stops breathing, and you are left in a world that is suddenly empty and cold.

C.S. Lewis was a man who had lived his life avoiding that kind of emotional anguish. An atheist who became a Christian, he wrote numerous books and essays about religion and faith. When he was younger, he urged those who were suffering to be patient in their pain, to look for the lessons to be learned in grief. Then his wife died, and Lewis discovered that being a patient sufferer wasn't as simple as he'd always thought.

I've always loved the Narnia books, but the author behind them never much interested me until I saw the play, "Shadowlands." The play tells the story of Lewis and how the famed British author met, married, loved and then lost his wife, Joy Gresham.

When Lewis and Gresham met, he was already famous for the Narnia series, and was living the life of a confirmed bachelor in the academic world of Oxford. He met Gresham, a divorced American writer, and suddenly his carefully guarded academic world was upended. It was only after the two married - allowing Gresham to stay in Great Britain - and she was diagnosed with cancer that they fell in love.

It's an intriguing story, a look at a man who thought he had all of the answers struggling with loss and grief that seems bottomless, and asking why.

The play tells of that struggle, examining the nature of faith and love and life through their story. Lewis spent so much of his life protecting himself from that kind of hurt, but he was shutting out the joy of living and loving that comes with the pain. In the end, he concludes that the price he paid, his grief, was worth what he got.

"Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life, I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal," Lewis says as the play closes.

The play gets at that basic truth beautifully. The measure of love is loss, and, though the pain is guaranteed, the joy is worth it.