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See world premiere of C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” at Herberger in Phoenix

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Saturday, Dec. 14–Sunday, Dec. 22, the New York-based Fellowship for the Performing Arts invites audiences to take a journey to heaven and hell through the eyes of C.S. Lewis in the world premiere of a new theatrical adaptation of “The Great Divorce.” Based on the book by Lewis, the play will be presented at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe St., in Phoenix. Following its limited engagement in the Valley, “The Great Divorce” will continue on a national tour, visiting such cities as Birmingham, Kansas City, Charlotte, Charleston, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, and Columbus in 2014.

One of Lewis’ most influential works, “The Great Divorce” earns its place among other Lewis classics, such as “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” “The Screwtape Letters” and “Mere Christianity.” “This is Lewis at his imaginative best,” said Max McLean, artistic director of the Fellowship for the Performing Arts. In “The Great Divorce,” several of Lewis' most provocative characters, drawn with his trademark wit, take a bus ride from hell to paradise. But will they like it or will they prefer hell to heaven?

In this thought-provoking exploration of human nature, we meet such characters as a man who likes the idea of heaven except that staying there would mean giving up his precious pet lizard, a woman who can’t stop grumbling and a world traveler who believes the idea of heaven and hell is merely a propaganda stunt. Being given the choice of staying or going highlights the “great divorce” between heaven and hell.

“The Great Divorce” stars Tom Beckett, Joel Rainwater and Christa Scott-Reed.

Beckett has appeared on Broadway in “Bobbi Boland,” “Epic Proportions” and “The Father,” and in such off-Broadway productions as “The Temperamentals,” “Communicating Doors,” “Travels with My Aunt” and “Einstein’s Dreams.”

Rainwater has appeared in “The Lion King” (national tour) and off-Broadway in “Homer’s Odyssey.” Other New York credits include “The Boss,” “Dead Dogs” and “A Doll’s House.”

Scott-Reed has appeared on Broadway in “The Pitmen Painters” and off-Broadway in such productions as “The Freedom of the City,” “The Talls,” “Celebration and The Room,” “The Bald Soprano and the Lesson,” “Beasley's Christmas Party,” “Pullman Car Hiawatha” and “Marion Bridge.”

Adapted by McLean and Brian Watkins, “The Great Divorce” is directed by Bill Castellino. The creative team includes executive producer and general manager Ken Denison of Aruba Productions, scenic designer Kelly James Tighe, costume designer Nicole Wee and lighting designer Michael Gilliam. Projections are by Chris Kateff, with original music and sound design by John Gromada.

This year on Nov. 22, which marked the 50th anniversary of Lewis’ death, Lewis received one of Britain’s highest honors, a memorial in Poets’ Corner, where he joined such legends as Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens.

Purchase tickets to “The Great Divorce” online or call the box office at (602) 252-8497.

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Follow me on Twitter @DorisNehrbass.

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