The Screwtape Letters Onstage: One Hell of a Good Show

by Gary David Stratton, PhD

“WICKEDLY WITTY…it is, if I may say so, ONE HELL OF A GOOD SHOW! Lewis’ topsy-turvy exercises in inverted moral theology were made to be played with lip-smacking relish!”  -Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal

Award winning actor, Max McLean, is brilliant in his role as Senior Tempter, “Uncle Screwtape”

Saturday evening I had the privilege of taking my fourteen-year-old actress daughter to one of the most unlikely of theatrical performances to grace a Los Angeles stage since Aimee Semple McPherson closed the Angelus Temple Theatre.

After a 300 performance run in New York City, The Fellowship for the Arts, a New York based nonprofit organization, had the audacity to attempt a stage rendition of C.S. Lewis’s literary classic, The Screwtape Letters at the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA.  Their faith was well honored and their mission to “produce theatre from a Christian worldview that engages a diverse audience” well served in the four sold-out shows in one of the tougher theater towns in America. (Extra shows had to be added to meet demand.)

Anchored by acting tour-de-force, MAX McLAEN, THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS ONSTAGE proved to be one of the most delightful evenings of my life. The acting and storytelling was riveting, but more importantly, the content was mesmerizing.

“THE DEVIL HAS RARELY BEEN GIVEN HIS DUE MORE PERCEPTIVELY AND ERUDITELY…a humorous and lively stage adaptation…clever and satirical…” -Wilborn Hampton, The New York Times

C.S. Lewis' masterful interweaving of theology and storytelling landed him on the cover of Time

McLEAN and his writing partner JEFFREY FISK’s adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s masterpiece augments SCREWTAPE’s storyline by highlighting the central spiritual lessons learned at the expense of Junior Temptor, Wormwood. They breathe life into the invisible battle between heaven and hell in a humorous and moving performance.

“The play, set in a eerily stylish office in hell, follows the clever scheming of Satan’s chief pyschiatrist, Screwtape, as he entices a human ‘patient’ toward damnation. In this topsy-turvy, morally inverted universe God is the “Enemy” and the Devil is “Our Father below.”  The stakes are high as human souls are hell’s primary source of food.

As His Abysmal Sublimity Screwtape, award winning actor Max McLean, creates a ‘master of the universe’ character who mesmerizes the audience as he allures his unsuspecting ‘patient’ down the “soft, gentle path to Hell.”[1]

THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS ONSTAGE was true Two Handed Warrior magic! The artistry was first class culture making and the content highly sophisticated faith building.

“DEVILISHLY FUNNY…Lewis’ philosophical insights into human nature are cleverly conveyed!” -Jennifer Farrar, Associated Press

Screwtape (Max McLean) with junior demon “Toadpipe” (Karen Eleanor Wight).

Even more importantly to any parents, I can give The Screwtape Letters  my HIGHEST PARENTAL RATING. It is so hard to find artistic expressions from a genuinely Christian worldview teenagers won’t view as “lame.” Screwtape was anything but.  My sophisticated actress was transfixed. The play evoked a SIX HOUR spiritual conversation that I will cherish for the rest of my life.  She was inspired not only in her faith, but in her commitment to acting as well. I simply can’t recommend it highly enough.

THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS is currently on a mini-tour of the U.S. (See confirmed dates below). If it comes to your town, you absolutely must see it.

Who knows?  If you miss it you might regret it for all eternity,

Gary

.

Currently Scheduled Tour Dates 

Sacramento, CA – March 3 

Seattle, WA March 10

The Fellowship for the Performing Arts Mission Statement: "To produce theatre from a Christian worldview that engages a diverse audience."

Chicago, IL March 16-18

Oklahoma City, OK – March 24 

Indianapolis, IN  March 31

Buffalo, NY  April 14

Nashville, TN  April 27

Norfolk, VA – May 1-6

Aurora, IL – May 19

Atlanta, GA – June 7-10; 14-17

.

“A large part of what makes it successful is the energetic performance by Max McLean as Screwtape…every inch the cunning gentleman he is often purported to be.” -Wilborn Hampton, The New York Times

“A parable dipped in MORDANT IRONY…CAPTURES THE DROLL HUMOR with which Lewis constructed his topsy-turvy morality lesson. CLEVERLY IMAGINED FOR THE STAGE, it gives even nonbelievers an amusing primer of modern vice.” -Michael Schulman, The New Yorker

“The production with its IMAGINATIVE set and SNAZZY lighting effects is HIGHLY SEDUCTIVE!” – Joe Dziemianowicz , New York Daily News

“EXCELS at depicting seduction and corruption…the audience’s 90 minutes is spent — HUMOROUSLY but at times uncomfortably — being wooed by the underworld’s top salesman.  Lessons I didn’t notice when reading the book jumped out at me during the performance.” -Kristin Hamill, CNN


[1] http://www.screwtapeonstage.com/about

6 Replies to “The Screwtape Letters Onstage: One Hell of a Good Show”

  1. The Screwtape Letters was an event I will go see again and again..and again. With only two actors in the play and not much of a set, my mind was left only to listen and take in the powerful words of C.S Lewis. As a Christian, I found this play to be right on with the way the enemy works and deceives us which ultimately brought hundred of questions to mind as to how I am letting the enemy get to me in my own personal life. (Which I am still working out..) As enjoyable as the play was it really brought a sense of reality and the warfare that we are all facing daily to the front of my mind. I give a standing ovation to the actors and the unforgettable experience. What a great performance! 🙂

      1. Not offhand – this looks like a second tour of the show because I saw it in December 2009 – it was still Max McLean though – I talked to their production manager after the show. Fascinating stuff…

Comments are closed.