Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

5/3/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

This play is making its way throughout various cities around the Nation. See it!

Max McLean's presence, vocal cadence, facial and bodily expression and theatrical talent captivates the audience. He inserts you right into the center of a morally inverted universe by reaching into the center of our human emotions, the heart. That is what makes good theatre so good - and this is truly good theatre.

Max McLean portraying Screwtape

Max McLean portraying Screwtape

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/3/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Max McLean, Screwtape Letters, Virginia Arts Festival, Wells Theatre, Fellowship for the performing Arts, CS Lewis, Deacon Keith Fournier


NORFOLK,VA (Catholic Online) - I had the pleasure of attending the first night's performance of the theatrical adaptation of CS Lewis' masterpiece on the Moral Life, the Screwtape Letters, in Norfolk, Virginia. Max McLean was brilliant in his portrayal of Screwtape. Screwtape is the demon uncle who mentors his nephew/student named "Wormwood" on the task of temptation. The book contains a series of letters between the two which are intended to assist the student in his assigned task of tempting an unnamed man who is  called the "patient", away from the path of faith, love and virtue. These letters from Screwtape contain "affectionate" instructions. However, one soon finds there is no true affection in these letters, in spite of their ending salutations. That is because there is no love in Hell. From the moment this superb production begins, Max McLean commands both the stage and the character. His captivating presence, vocal cadence, facial and bodily expression and theatrical talent captivate the audience. He never lets go, offering a ninety minute experience that changes the participant. He inserts you right into the center of a morally inverted universe created by the genius of CS Lewis in his masterful treatment of the meaning of life and the corrosive reality of evil. McLean does this not by appealing as much to the mind - as done so well in the book - but by reaching into the center of our human emotions, the heart. That is what makes good theatre so good - and this is truly good theatre. This capacity is also what makes for a brilliant actor - and Max Mclean is clearly numbered among the best in this reviewer's opinion.  In an interesting twist, the play opens with Screwtape addressing a graduation banquet for young demons who are graduating from the Tempters College. The original Screwtape Letters were written in 1941. However, the material adapted for this beginning was taken from "Screwtape Proposes a Toast", a 1962 essay Lewis wrote which was included in a collection of writings on theology, literature and ethics entitled "They Asked for a Paper". It is now routinely included in most editions of the Screwtape Letters. After writing Screwtape Letters, Lewis vowed not to write another letter, even though the requests multiplied. He wrote of his experience of writing the letters, "the strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp. The world into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness, and geniality had to be excluded. It almost smothered me before I was done. It would have smothered my readers if I had prolonged it."

Yet, some 20 years later, Lewis wrote the essay, "Screwtape Delivers a Toast" in response to a request from the Saturday Evening Post. Using the toast to begin this play was brilliant. It showed, from the beginning of this production, the creative genius of McLean and his colleague, Jeff Fiske. Together they adapted this book of letters for the Stage. The two work together in the "Fellowship for the Performing Arts". After seeing this play, I will follow their work very closely going forward. Max told me in an earlier interview that a Theatre professor from Drew University once told him in a letter that he would "make a good Screwtape." He read Lewis' book when he was in his twenties and it had a profound effect on him. He wondered what the professor meant. Fortunately, it later led him to recast the book for the theatre. He was convinced that this CS Lewis masterpiece was "so brilliant and so consistent" in presenting a "morally inverted universe" that it had to performed onstage.  Max was also convinced that the character Lewis created, Screwtape, was one of the great literary creations of the twentieth century. He knew that if they "could find this character theatrically it would be something wonderful." Well, after having experienced the Screwtape Letters on May 1, 2012 at the Wells Theatre in downtown Norfolk Virginia, I can say Max McLean has created that something wonderful. And, he offers it to all of us. I can also affirm that the Professor was correct about Max. The acting was so superb; I was truly in the presence of Screwtape. The letters reveal the nature of all counterfeit "affection" as the relationship between student and teacher devolves into denigration, manipulation and abuse. The feigned affection of Screwtape is the cover for a relationship of use - with the ultimate aim of consuming Wormwood in its hungry malice. The selection of the few letters used in the play, out of over thirty in the book, shows that the writers understand the essence of CS Lewis. The stark and foreboding set depicts the barrenness of hell with its backdrop of skulls and bones. The master/tempter Screwtape receives and sends his correspondence through the mediation of his assisting demon named Toadpipe - and through a unique communications device not unlike the drive through teller tube at a bank. Only this tube communicates through the layers of the lowerachy of the Kingdom below. The entire play takes place in Screwtape' barren office, decorated only by his sickening pride and self love. Only Screwtape fully appears on that stage. Yes, he is assisted by a demon named Toadpipe who has no lines, only gyrations, grunts and gestures - a part well played by Tamala Bakkenson. However, the performance revolves around Screwtape. The characters of Wormwood, The Enemy (the true God), "Our Father Below" (the Evil One), Slobgob, The Patient (victim of Wormwood's failed temptations) and The Woman (with whom the patient falls in love) are made present through McLean's commanding presence. Attending the Screwtape Letters should take its place alongside reading the original Lewis book - for anyone who seeks to live their life with meaning and purpose. This is a reverse morality play. Its message is delivered in a manner which elicited laughter from some in the audience. I did not laugh at all. It moved me to interior reflection - and appreciation for the gift of living faith. The lessons revealed in the diabolical dialogue between the two demons - as they seek to devour and destroy - called to mind the clear promise of Jesus, "The thief comes to kill and destroy, I have come to bring Life and life in abundance" (John 10:10).  The book peels back the layers of life, revealing the reality of the unseen or spiritual world. It exposes a morally upside down universe where the Evil One, the "Father Below",  and his minions, strategically seek out the fissures in our fractured freedom in order to lead us into the slavery of Hell. That Hell is separation from the God who is Love. It is aptly called in the book, the "kingdom of noise". It is devoid of all that is beautiful and good and true. That includes the wells of silence at which we learn the way of prayer. The road to that separation is paved by our wrongful exercise of human freedom. We choose the way. The correspondence between these two demons exposes the meaning of the Moral life. Our choices not only change the world around us, they change us. We become what we choose. Because our capacity to choose the good has been fractured by sin, our choices have become a field of battle. On that field, temptations raise their weapons against us, seeking out our most vulnerable areas. It is there where demons find their open door, piggybacking on our pride and self love in its myriad of disguises. They ride in to our lives on the back of our disordered appetites. It is there where lies lure us into the darkness where the "father below" works his evil and corrupting ways.  The production received a well deserved and prolonged standing ovation at its conclusion. Afterward, Max McLean returned to the stage to answer questions from the members of the audience who desired to stay. He revealed another gift, his ability to teach the meaning of this play. Using the questions as a vehicle, like any good teacher, he spoke of his own experience in bringing the play from page to stage. He also explained the purpose CS Lewis had in living his life dedicated to writing such brilliant masterpieces of Christian apologetics. After the production, patrons could pick up literature about the Fellowship for the Performing Arts, one of the projects Max is involved in. Its goal is to "produce theatre from a Christian worldview that engages a diverse audience".  Having now seen this play I can say that they are succeeding. In so doing, they are keeping alive the work of greats like CS Lewis who understood the real mission of those who bear the name Christian. We cannot build ghettos for ourselves where we hide from the world. Like the One whose name we bear, Jesus Christ, we are called to love the World - and to bring into its heart the message of the true humanism, Christianity.  One of the greatest vehicles for accomplishing this task is the Arts. Max McLean is a great artist, a great actor and a great gift. The performance in Norfolk is co-sponsored by the Virginia Arts Festival. The play is making its way throughout various cities around the Nation. See it! I was delighted to read that an adaptation of Lewis' "The Great Divorce" is now being undertaken by the Fellowship for the Performing Arts. I will keep our global readers aware of its progress.  

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for August 2014
Refugees:
That refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.
Oceania: That Christians in Oceania may joyfully announce the faith to all the people of that region.



Comments


More U.S.

Why I Said No to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Embryonic Stem Cell Research Is Deadly Watch

Image of I was approached to take the Ice Bucket Challenge to help bring an end to ALS. I said No. I have tried to explain why I said No in this article. I hope it is a helpful contribution in our public discussion. As a Christian, it is never easy to be seen as seemingly unwilling to support a noble cause such as the eradication of a debilitating disease. However, it is vital that we stand for for the fundamental and foundational moral truth which underlies every effort to end disease, the dignity of every human person, including embryonic human persons.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

I was approached to take the Ice Bucket Challenge to help bring an end to ALS. I said No. I have tried to explain why I said No in this article. I hope it is a helpful contribution in our public discussion. As a Christian, it is never easy to be seen as seemingly ... continue reading


Toward a Christian Vision of Human Work On Labor Day Watch

Image of Christians need to bear witness in the real world to the true value, purpose, meaning and dignity of all human work - just as we bear witness to the inherent value and dignity of every human worker. This is a vital part of our witness to an age which has lost its way.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Adam and Eve worked in the garden and it brought them great joy. For the Christian, work is meant to become a participation in the continuing redemptive mission of Jesus, and His ongoing work. Jesus viewed his entire life and mission as work. He was always doing ... continue reading


American Islamic terrorist Fort Hood shooter requests to join Islamic State as a 'citizen' Watch

Image of Nadal Hasan, the man who killed 13 people during a rampage at Fort Hood in 2009, has written a letter to the Islamic State asking to join the terrorist organization as a citizen.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

U.S. Army psychiatrist, Nadal Hasan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood back in November 2009 has written a letter to the leader of the Islamic State, asking to become a citizen of the Islamic State's caliphate, an attorney of Husan reported on August 28. LOS ... continue reading


St Augustine on a Personal Relationship with Jesus Watch

Image of St Augustine

By Deacon Keith Fournier

But we too can encounter Christ in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ's Heart and feel him touching ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we ... continue reading


SHAKEN WINE: Strong earthquake jolts California's wine region Watch

Image of The weekend's temblor was felt widely throughout the region, from more than 200 miles south of Napa and as far east as the Nevada border.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rumbled through the early Sunday morning hours in the heart of California's wine country. The epicenter was near the city of Napa in the Golden State's north. Fires erupted in a mobile home park where four homes were destroyed and two ... continue reading


Money is NOT the Root of Evil: Living Simplicity Watch

Image of Simplicity is not about the quantity of the goods of the earth we possess. It is about our relationship to them. Jesus said - Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:21).

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Learning to live in evangelical Simplicity strips away what impedes love. In finding our proper relationship to the goods of the earth- not rejecting them, craving them, or turning them into an idol- we can learn true freedom. Our eyes are opened and everything begins ... continue reading


Is Transgenderism a Mental Disorder or a Right? Watch

Image of Pope Emeritus Benedict was absolutely correct when he said, - the profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. - Gender is a gift. It is also a given. The dangers of the Gender Identity Movement are becoming increasingly clear.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In a culture where freedom has been redefined as a right to choose anything and liberty has degenerated into license, the newspeak of the age has declared the instrumental use of the body of another to be sexual freedom. It is not freedom. It turns people into ... continue reading


WORST YET TO COME? Islamic State threat 'beyond anything we've seen,' Pentagon says Watch

Image of IS is

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online has been keeping very close watch on the atrocities being committed by Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, and according to a top government official - the worst is yet to come. According to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the sophistication, ... continue reading


Lawsuit dropped against devil worshiper in Oklahoma Watch

Image of Lawyers representing Archbishop Paul Coakley had earlier demanded the return of a communion wafer obtained by the group.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The leader of a satanic group in Oklahoma City had threatened that he and his followers would defile a consecrated communion wafer as an offering to Satan as a carnal sacrifice at a "Black Mass" ceremony inside Oklahoma City's Civic Center Music Hall. The ... continue reading


Should Americans have job preference over unskilled-illegal immigrants? President Obama doesn't think so Watch

Image of New polls are showing that Americans are tired of illegal immigrants getting benefits at the expense of citizens and legal immigrants.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

According to the Associated Press: "one of the more popular requests among business and family groups is a change in the way green cards are counted," which would "essentially free up some 800,000 additional visas the first year." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Corinthians 2:1-5
1 Now when I came to you, brothers, I did not come ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 119:97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102
97 How I love your Law! I ponder it all day ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 4:16-30
16 He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 1st, 2014 Image

St. Giles, Abbot
September 1: St. Giles, Abbot (Patron of Physically Disabled) Feast day - ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter