We spent last week in New York. Our plans included a show. I was thrilled to discover that Max McLean was performing The Screwtape Letters off-Broadway. I saw McLean perform Mark’s Gospel last year, and had heard good things about Screwtape. We bought our tickets. I couldn’t wait.
When we arrived last Friday night, a small piece of paper fell out of our programs. “At this performance the role of SCREWTAPE will be performed by Steven Hauck and the role of TOADPIPE will be performed by Beckley Andrews.” I admit to being disappointed. I shouldn’t have been. I’m sure McLean and Elise Girardin put on a great performance, but it didn’t feel like we were getting the second string. Hauck and Andrews were excellent.
I also found it difficult to imagine how you could turn the book by C.S. Lewis
into a play. Fifteen minutes in and I was still wondering if it would work, but it did. The play managed to break out of the predictable letter/response format. The Toadpipe character helped, as did the offscreen characters. I found the tension building, even though it was also resolved very quickly at the end. It’s not the ideal material for a play, but they pulled it off.
Of course, the C.S. Lewis material is excellent. It’s one of those books that stands up to repeated readings. The play will communicate this material to new audiences, and I know it’s going to stick in my mind a lot better after Friday.
The play dragged Lewis into 2010, with Screwtape reading a book about Madonna at one point. The material is timeless, even though it was written during World War II. It works in New York City today just as well as it would have in England almost 70 years ago.
If you have the opportunity to see this play, I’d recommend it. We thoroughly enjoyed it.