This weekend, Broadway Series South will host the National Tour of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters for four performances Oct. 2-4 in A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in the heart of downtown Raleigh, NC.
The New York City-based Fellowship for Performing Arts founder and artistic director Max McLean adapted Lewis’ 1942 satirical novel for the stage. The production by FPA, which produces theater with a Christian worldview, premiered Off-Off-Broadway in 2006 and and made its Off-Broadway debut in 2007.
The Screwtape Letters is a two-person play that runs approximately 90 minutes, without intermission, says Max McLean, who also played the title character in the two New York productions and in the 2010 Off-Broadway revival of the show. He adds, “We’ve been touring since 2010, with a short break in 2014.” (The play made its Triangle debut with two performances on Nov. 6, 2010 at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.)
McLean says Brent Harris, who played Scar in the North American Tour of The Lion King, currently plays Screwtape; and Karen Eleanor Wight, who played Toadpipe during the show’s original 2007-08 Off-Broadway run, is reprising that role on tour. Screwtape is a senior demon hell-bent (pun intended) on ensuring the damnation of an unseen Brit whom he calls “The Patient”; Toadpipe is his secretary; and Screwtape addresses a fourth character, his nephew Wormwood, an unseen junior tempter whom his uncle is mentoring and has assigned the task of undermining the faith of The Patient and nudging him toward sin.
“Screwtape is a predator, and The Patient is the prey,” claims Max McLean. “There are two story arcs in the play. One is what happens to The Patient who is the object of Screwtape’s spiritual attacks.
“The Patient begins the play as spiritually indifferent,” notes McLean. “At the end of the play, he’s quite devout. That’s one arc.
The second, more theatrical arc is what happens to Screwtape, who’s this Master-of-the-Universe character, Satan’s right-hand man,” explains McLean. “At the beginning of the play, he’s at the top of his game. But by the end of the play, he’s a defeated devil.
“What’s fascinating,” says McLean, “is the wit and wisdom that guides this sort of skeleton plot.
He adds, “Toadpipe is Screwtape’s assistant. The play is called The Screwtape Letters; it’s about communication from Hell to Heaven. So, we wanted to maintain that conceit; but we didn’t want Screwtape to be behind a desk, writing letters. So, we have Toadpipe handle all of the ‘letter management.’ The set [by scenic designer Cameron Anderson] has a pneumatic device, which is a fun way of capturing the communications back and forth between Hell and Earth.
“Wormwood is on Earth, and the set is in Hell,” says Max McLean. He adds, About half a million people have seen this show, in just about every market…. It’s very faithful to Lewis’ novel.
“We have a really good track record of encouraging people,” says McLean. “Some people might find The Screwtape Letters convicting; other people might find it life-changing.”
In reviewing previous productions of The Screwtape Letters, Terry Teachout of The Wall Street Journal called the show “Wickedly witty … [I]t 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!”
Wilborn Hampton of The New York Times saluted The Screwtape Letters as “A humorous and lively stage adaptation …. The Devil has rarely been given his due more perceptively and eruditely …. [The show is] clever and satirical ….”
Broadway Series South presents C.S. Lewis’ THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS at 8 p.m. Oct. 2, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3, and 8 p.m. Oct. 4 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $45.52-$56.20 (including fees).
Duke Energy Center Box Office: 919-996-8700 and firstname.lastname@example.org (information only).
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/1251357.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-996-8707, email@example.com, or http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/broadway-series-south/group-sales.
VIDEO PREVIEW (by Rod Martin): https://vimeo.com/44054348.
PRESENTER: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/broadway-series-south, https://www.facebook.com/broadwayseriessouthraleigh, and https://twitter.com/BroadwaySouth.
The Screwtape Letters (1942 satirical novel): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Screwtape_Letters (Wikipedia).
The Novel (partial text): https://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Clive Staples “C.S.” Lewis (English novelist, college professor, and Christian apologist, 1898-1963): https://www.cslewis.com/us (official U.S. website) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._S._Lewis (Wikipedia).
The Screwtape Letters (2006 Off-Off-Broadway and 2007 Off-Broadway play): http://www.screwtapeonstage.com/ (official website), http://fpatheatre.com/production/the-screwtape-letters/ (FPA web page), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and http://fpatheatre.com/ (official website).
Max McLean (founder and artistic director of Fellowship for Performing Arts and adapter of The Screwtape Letters): http://fpatheatre.com/about/#meetmaxmclean (FPA bio), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_McLean (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail email@example.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)