Theater Review: C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters
© The Flash List | November 11, 2013
Fellowship for the Performing Arts at Eisemann Center
Max McLean, Artistic Director
It's no secret ... God loves the "hairless bipeds" He's created. And all of hell is in a fury because of it.
The younger, less experienced demon Wormwood has recently graduated from the Tempters Training College and is now tasked with ensuring that his first human "patient" is successfully ushered into the bleak and dismal abyss. Through a series of letters, Wormwood receives the help of his sinister Uncle Screwtape in devising a diabolical plot to snatch their unwitting victim from the gracious and eternally loving arms of "The Enemy" ... if only they could just figure out what He's up to.
Set in an "eerily stylish" underworld office where skulls and bones adorn the walls, this dramatic theatrical adaptation of the C.S. Lewis novel about spiritual warfare from a demon's point of view reveals the evil motives behind destructive vices such as pride (especially in one's humility), moderated religion, sexual temptation, and even the occupation of noise in our day-to-day "real" lives. After all, it's cunningly contrived, "the safest road to hell is the gradual one."
Award-winning actor Brent Harris (known for playing Scar in the National Tour of The Lion King), donned in a long red brocade jacket, portrays Screwtape, the chief psychiatrist and high-ranking official in the, uh, "lowerarchy" of their "Father below." Although Harris has the roaring lion's share of demanding dialogue in this primarily one-man monologue (eloquently delivered via a marvelous variety of vocal inflections and a Henry Higgins-esque demeanor), Tamala Bakkensen is equally animated in a nonverbal (albeit 'gurgly' and growly) animalistic sort of fashion as Screwtape's secretarial assistant Toadpipe who maneuvers stage props with reptilian mannerisms and intermittently transforms into a visual stand-in example for some of Screwtape's character illustrations and reminiscent anecdotes. In one highlight, Toadpipe's humorously stunning reaction to the effectiveness of Christian prayer left us with mouth agape whispering aloud, "Oh my gosh!"
An important and necessary piece of literature and theater art for our current culture, The Screwtape Letters is an entertaining and illuminating look at the menacing powers at work on the battlefield of the human mind ... a power which, as it turns out, is rather easily shaken itself.
The Screwtape Letters is produced by Fellowship for the Performing Arts which “exists to produce theatre from a Christian worldview that engages a diverse audience.” Upcoming performances include: St. Louis, MO (December 7, 2013); Orange County / LA, CA (December 27-29, 2013); Santa Barbara, CA (January 18, 2014), Baton Rouge, LA (January 25, 2014); Paducah, KY (March 8, 2014); Omaha, NE (April 5, 2014); Ft. Lauderdale, FL (April 11-12, 2014); and more. Running time: 90 minutes.
For more information, visit The Screwtape Letters online.