This stirring, heartbreaking production tells the familiar story of Joan of Arc, a poor 15th-century teenager who ends up leading the occupied nation of France in defiance of Britain. Thomas infuses the lead character with a passion that is just this side of crazy, tempered with a peasant girl's straightforward manner and a child's simple humor. This is not a Joan to take lightly, as is most evident in the beguiling scenes where she convinces first a local noble, Robert De Beaudricourt (Bo Wilson), and then Charles, the French king in waiting (Chris Stewart), to support her mission to "drive the British into the sea." The actors navigate this subtle emotional territory with grace, with Thomas making Joan unmistakably human but touched with something inescapably divine.
The play's script (written by 1950s-era firebrand Lillian Hellman) drags when it delves into the complicated political and theological quagmire that Joan was embroiled in, and the show could have been 20 minutes shorter. But the production is exemplary, with scads of celestial light (thanks to lighting designer Lynne Hartmann) and a large and accomplished cast. A particular standout is Matthew Costello as a bishop who ultimately tries to save Joan from her martyrdom. Thomas is the star at the center of this universe, though, and she shines with a light both clear and beautiful.
"The Lark" plays at the Barksdale Theatre at the Shops at Willow Lawn, most Wednesdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. through March 19. Tickets are $32-$38. Call 282-2620 or go to
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