Director Max McLean's The Screwtape Letters Review- A Morality Play

Across the United States a sold out National Touring play is making everyone take an inner look at themselves. On June 8, 2013 at Woodruff Art Center, Alliance Theatre, in Atlanta, Georgia, I was deeply moved by the play C. S. Lewis “The Screwtape Letters directed by Max McLean that I had to give my special Review on this highly acclaimed production. Several weeks ago, Mr. McLean was introduced to our Splash Magazine readers by Renee Sudderth who attended this event with me and her sister Toni Sudderth. Toni's simple Review statement of the play was “it’s a spiritual warfare between flesh & spirit and your soul is at stake”.



Reviewer-Patricia Oalden and Director Max McLean, Courtesy of Ms Oalden

The play is comprised of 31 letters dictated by senior demon, Screwtape to Wormwood, an invisible tempter but is written by Toadpipe, a non-invisible tempter who sends the letters to the earthly demons for their assignments. Screwtape was charged with convincing men to be with the Father Below, the Devil and showing how Good verses Evil strikes a cord of conviction of our hidden moral desires that might be considered a passage of secrecy. The luring of persons to damnation is used in such a smooth, clever and satirical way that one could become haunted by the visual art that plays on our fantasies and becomes a temptation.


Read The Book and Watch The Play - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

McLean, with Walt & Anne Waldie; and Bill & Bridget Cough’s presentation of The Screwtape Letters captivated a wide range of believers and nonbelievers. Being torn between the opposite forces of good and evil can be confusing,and challenging from the angle and approach of the actors.  As an audience member, it makes you wonder if there is death after you die for those evildoers.  One wonders about the constant battle between the flesh and the spirit to serve God or Satan.


The luring desires of our five senses is the most tantalizing pleasures that we want to last forever. Just like Eve in the Bible being tempted by the serpent (Satan) through a delicious looking apple and listening to his deceptive lies.  It becomes difficult to choose between parallel lives, when the choices seem to be very enchanting and alluring desire that burns within each of us that will lead us to a contributed cost. These same desires were mentioned in the “letters”,  which it made us both happy and sad at times because it was so true.


The affectionate Screwtape was played by the award winning Brent Harris, who was completely convincing in his role at the Tempters Training College. Before taking this role he was admired for his acting abilities as “Scar” in The Lion King, “Lucifer” in Dr. Foustus, and “Lago” in Othello.



Brent Harris "Screwtape" and Renee Sudderth discussing the awsome Play - Courtesy of Ms Sudderth


His character was  influential and deceptive as he used his tactical approaches to reach our superficial intelligent, as well as our pride which make you think that you are the King of the World.


His goal is to create havoc among people and eventually destroy relationships. I paused when he used the Screwtape letters to show how we find ourselves arguing with parents or using strong opinions to the point where arguments divide us. This is a simple tactic to breakdown the first family that God created. Without family, our foundations are corrupted and the building will not stand, but fall. The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy.  Satan does not want you to love, because he knows it is the most powerful emotion knowing God is Love. Satan does not understand and offers his devices that are tantalizing, seductive, eye catching, sly, slick and wicked which tends to be extremely brutal in the end.

Toadpipe, played by Marissa Molnar was spectacular in her role as a lofty servant/secretary.  She has starred in Romeo and Juliet as Nurse, A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Helena and etc.


The Great Actress Marissa Molnar "Toadpipe" - Courtesy of Blog at Word Press.Com

Although she never speaks in this play, her body language articulates everything Toadpipe was trying to say. She was an equal partner on stage and the witty hisses of a cat were very funny and quite interesting as she wrote the letters from Screwtape’s dictation. The physical role of hopping around the stage from the chair to the floor and climbing the ladder that was suspended in the air had to be challenging.  I particularly loved how she morphed into character and allowed her body to do the speaking.   


Toadpipe, the messenger for Screwtape (Satan)- Courtesy of Scott Suchman


There was no need to have many props, since the letters were being articulated by Screwtape and written by Toadpipe who sent them to the earthly demons for their assignments.  The sets contributed greatly to the total production. The stage design conveyed a small dark dismal place like hell where escape seemed impossible. It set the tone for darkness and especially when you saw all the captivated souls that were feasted upon and decorated with fires of red. It felt as though one had entered a cave from the catacombs.  


Screwtape, Toadpipe, in hell - Courtesy of Scott Suchman

The makeup was perfect and the costumes were very descriptive. The color coordination choices were surprising, but  drew me in.  I enjoyed the play so much that I am encouraged to read the book which was written in 1942 by C.S. Lewis who died in 1963.  


After the play, I was excited about meeting Director McLean and sharing my feelings about the play while Renee and Toni stood close by giving their input too. Renee was really amazed how well written and how well the characters were able to reach the audience. I told Mr. McLean that I found myself in a new place of conviction and appreciated him more in the way he was able to display such power to a wide audience about our concealed inner sins.  This made my skin crawl.  As the different desires were presented, I wondered if I could escape this powerful luring soul tantalizing me with pleasures.


Because I am a Christian, I know that my God would provide an access of escape. Prayer is one of those channels that God hears from us directly as we speak from the heart. Our enemy, the affectionate Screwtape cannot quite understand, and feels it’s a dangerous zone when we start praying. Therefore, he will immediately try to stop us at any cost.


Screwtape dictates to Toadpipe in their office "hell'- Courtesy of Scott Suchman

Overall, this play made me realize that life is nothing but a mere channel of different passages. On our journey we sometimes linger because of the way we perceive our lives and pretend all day long.  We want to be like a microwave or a express lane rather than being patient and sober which is needed to be observant. Depending on your outlook on life, you could be entering into the Tempership Training College and become a Graduate, with your soul captured and plastered on the walls of Hell.


The question is do we want to live the life of grandeur of carnal desires or a life of simplicity.  Eventually you get tired of being a fool and wake up and want to be reclaimed back to heaven and bring a halt to the spiritual warfare of Good vs. Evil.


Award Winning Director Max McLean's proud moment after the Play - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth


 Copyright © 2013.JULY This Review was written by Patricia Oalden and photos by Renee Sudderth for Splash Magazines. It is not to be sold or reproduce without written permission of Patricia Oalden and Renee Sudderth





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