Courtesy of Gerry Goodstein - Max McLean stars as "Screwtape" in THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS.
In the inverted underworld portrayed in the C.S. Lewis satirical novel, “The Screwtape Letters,” up is down, good is bad and God becomes “the Enemy” while Satan is “Our Father Below.” An instructive morality tale, the story follows the scheming of a senior demon, Screwtape, who advises his demon nephew, Wormwood, through a series of letters, how to lead a young man into hell.
A new acclaimed stage adaptation of the Christian classic that has played off‑Broadway and gone on to tour, will be on stage for two performances at the Center for the Arts at the University at Buffalo on April 14.
Max McLean, best known for acting in one‑person shows and narrating audio books, wrote the stage version with Jeffrey Fiske and plays the role of Screwtape. He told “Good Morning Texas” in a television interview that inspiration for the dramatization of the character came from Iago in William Shakespeare’s “Othello.”
Iago is “someone who would get into your confidence and then manipulate you,” McLean said. He also draws from the Hannibal Lecter character, a psychiatrist with a taste for gourmet foods, fine wines and human flesh, from thriller novels and films. McLean explains that the Screwtape is “primarily entertaining but more than that, it is very, very provocative.”
The Alden Christian Theatre Society produced another theatrical version of “The Screwtape Letters” book. The theater is on a mission to “present positive values through theater and entertainment; to educate ourselves as professionals in a deeper understanding of the theater arts; to educate others through a ministry of the Lord; and to form a bond of family, community and friendship that is reflective of Jesus’ will for His followers.”
The theater group, co‑founded by Kathleen Sutter, started out in 1990 by performing three shows a year at St. John the Baptist School in Alden and then moved its productions to a local coffee shop. Today ACTS owns the coffee shop building and performs five shows annually. A parishioner at St. John the Baptist with a master’s in theology from Christ the King Seminary, she serves as operations manager.
Sutter said “The Screwtape Letters” story is intelligently written and does a phenomenal job in entertaining while holding a mirror to ourselves.
“Theater, any art form, is about pushing those envelopes,” Sutter said. “It’s about getting people to think about what they’re doing and asking if ‘this a good thing or is this not a good thing.’ The things that Screwtape says are exactly the way that evil works in the world. You recognize yourself all over the place.”
Sutter said the story is gripping because the stakes are very high.
“We’re talking about a man’s soul here,” Sutter said. “This is important stuff. They are literally fighting for his soul. Through the whole play you’re rooting for that guy to win, to somehow find a way out of this, and he’s slipping and he’s slipping and this act of love rescues him. That’s theater.”
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