Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Screwtape Letters in Portland Riveting with Both Fun and Serious Themes

The Screwtape Letters played at the Newmark Theater this weekend. It turned out to be 90 minutes of riveting entertainment with both fun and serious themes.

Based on C. S. Lewis' best selling book The Screwtape Letters (online version here*), the play starts with Lewis' shorter piece "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" as a prologue.

Brent Harris is superb at playing a devil tempter supervisor Screwtape who gives advice to a junior tempter on how to damn the soul of his "patient". It's basically a one man show, but Screwtape's mostly mute assistant Toadpipe gives visual comic relief.

The focus of the play is the nature of temptation and spiritual warfare from a devil's point of view.

One leaves the theater having been entertained, but also thinking about some of the issues raised. One example out of many comes in a passage from the book included in the play that hints at the humility needed to sustain close, long-term relationships.
"When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother's eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy - if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed."
(Letter III)
Producer and director Max McLean is known for high quality work. He received the 2009 Jeff Award for best solo performance. His next project is an adaptation of C. S. Lewis' short novel The Great Divorce also about choice, temptation and character change.
The Screwtape Letters was in the public domain in the 1970's in the United States.

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