Tuesday, February 26, 2013
The Screwtape Letters, adapted by Max McLean, Austin performance of February 16, 2013
by Michael Meigs
Max McLean certainly looked the part of Screwtape, the senior demon imagined by C.S. Lewis for his 1942 epistolary Christian novela The Screwtape Letters. Portly and with a thinning mane of graying hair, comfortably elegant in a red quilted dressing gown, he was the picture of a sybaritic Victorian gentleman at home in his study with attendant hissing demon.
Attendant demon? Well, yes; one imagines that as a relatively senior member of the administration of Our Father in Hell, a sort of ambassador and mentor to the corps of aspiring tempters and transversers, Screwtape would be entitled to at least one junior assistant. Toadpipe the demon hasn't a word to say in this script but plenty to hiss, and at one point when the word "prayer" is mentioned, Toadpipe has a long and rather nasty spell of visible vomiting.
Lewis's text is a fine exercise in intimate irony, and perhaps it's a little disconcerting to think that it was written as the second great European war got underway in earnest. It's presented as a series of 31 letters written by Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a new graduate of Tempters' Training. In this staging, Screwtape dictates the letters to Toadpipe, justifying that minor character's existence on stage and prompting a regular bit of business as the attendant demon scales a crazy ladder and dispatches them through a sort of underworldly pneumatic system with a great crash of sound effects and a fiery glow that mounts the pipe.
The Screwtape Letters is an account of a lengthy but ultimately futile coaching session. The aim is to confuse a young human and attract him to damnation at his death, after which the devils will feast upon his soul.
Read more at AustinLiveTheatre.com. . . .