Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Screwtape Letters Dramatization: A Review

Last night, performing at the Times Union-Moran Theater in Jacksonville was Brent Harris in 

John and I had the opportunity to go downtown and see this production thanks to a friend of his who had purchased tickets but couldn't go.  He graciously gave his tickets to John.  We were just three rows behind the orchestra pit.  They were the best free seats I've ever had.

Photo: Right up front. Not bad for the price... free!

I have never read The Screwtape Letters but had a good idea what it was about from what others have said.  I wish I had read it, though, so I would have been a bit more prepared for what I was going to see.  Brent Harris portrayed "His Abysmal Sublimity Screwtape."  He spoke almost continuously for 90 minutes.  Having done some minor acting myself (very minor), I was extremely impressed by his ability to memorize so much and be virtually alone on the stage the whole time.  There was another character, Toadpipe, portrayed by Tamala Bakkensen, but this creature didn't speak.  She simply hopped around the stage, making extremely creepy noises most of the time and even throwing up when they were talking about prayer.  I will remain convinced it was just water she was spewing.  I don't want to know if it wasn't.

In The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape dictates letters to his nephew, Wormwood, about how to keep his "patient" from becoming a Christian.  There are various techniques he can employ such as instilling pride, temptations, noise and busyness, apathy, etc.  The setting of the whole play is hell.  There was a wall resembling the Paris catacombs with skulls and bones displayed across it.  There was a ladder that reached up past where one could see.  Halfway up the ladder was a mailbox into which Toadpipe put each of Screwtapes letters and out of which she retrieved Wormwood's letters.  A chair for Screwtape and two tables sat on a slanted piece of stone.  The lighting was dark, sometimes red to resemble the fires of hell.  Twice during the play, bright white light flashed onto the stage to resemble heavenly light.  At times, when Screwtape was very angry, his voice reverberated, adding to the eerie feeling of this production.

When the play was over, I remarked to John that that was one of the weirdest things I had ever seen.  The producer, Max McLean, came out after it was over and invited the audience to stay for a time of discussion.  About half of the audience stayed, John and I with them.  I enjoyed this time more than the play, not to detract from the remarkable performance of Brent Harris.  Being able to learn more about people is something I truly love.  We learned about Max McLean's spiritual journey.  We talked about Christianity in the world of theater.  Mr. McLean and Mr. Harris were able to expound on some of the ideas presented in the play.  I think this allowed me to get past how strange the play was and focus on the message of it and the amazing wisdom and insight of C. S. Lewis.

It left me with questions I can ask myself: How strong is my faith?  How serious am I when I pray to God?  I was convicted by the segment where Toadpipe mimicked a person falling asleep when praying.  How often do I pray when I am too tired and end up falling asleep?  How often do I allow myself to be busy and just forget to read God's Word or pray?  Do I think that I am holier than I am?  Do I have too much pride in my knowledge?

There is no doubt that this play will stick with me for a very long time.  I will probably end up reading The Screwtape Letters so that I can be reminded of the spiritual battle that rages and how any apathy or lukewarmness I may display only serves to please the enemy.  I want to be sure my life is pleasing to the Lord.

I am glad I had the chance to see this dramatization.  If you don't have the opportunity to see it in person, read the book.

Thank you, Daniel, for giving us your tickets!!

1 comment:

  1. As I understand, this is the same Max McLean who has narrated the Bible over many years, and in many versions. His gift of reading has been of great benefit to many others, and here he is using another gift to make this production reality.

    Thank you for the review and descriptions. The performance sounds compelling.