'Screwtape' Play Sheds Light on Demons' Influence

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It's a new take on a Christian classic - a tale of spiritual warfare, from a demon's point of view.

The Screwtape Letters is one of author C.S. Lewis' most influential works, Now the famous literary work has been brought to life.

The age old message continues to lead viewers to the light, by first introducing them to the darkness.

More than 60 years after first appearing in print, The Screwtape Letters continues to be one of C.S. Lewis' most popular works.

The Fellowship for Performing Arts' theatrical adaptation of the classic first hit the stage in 2006 and performances have been selling out ever since.

Actor Max McLean, who also co-wrote the stage play, performs the lead role of Screwtape.

"When the project first came to me, I was really surprised because I didn't see it as theatrical literature," McLean said. "I just saw it as a kind of meditation on evil, almost a devotion in reverse, you know? But I didn't see it as something you could put on stage."

The challenge was transforming a book of letters into theatrical literature. But with a character like Screwtape, McLean knew he could create something wonderful.

"The character Screwtape is probably one of the great literary creations of the 20th century," McLean said.

"Screwtape, who begins the play as kind of this master of the universe character, loves the way he looks, loves the way he talks, loves the way he dresses," he continued. "Smartest guy in the room, pure, pure pride."

Screwtape is Satan's chief psychiatrist. His mission: to ruin lives and win human souls for the devil to consume.

"The story is a predator prey story," McLean explained. "Screwtape is really good at his job, and you have to somehow appreciate his tenacity, his desire to really get the job done"

"He also, you know, Scriptures they talk about Satan masquerading as an angel of light. So there is something appealing about his outward character," the actor said.

But something goes wrong along the way. Despite Screwtape's best efforts, the "patient," or the soul he is advising his nephew on how to win, goes from indifference, to devout.

"I think the big idea is also, you know, the quality of our lives are dependant on the choices that we make," McLean said. "But I think the distinction is that, what Lewis is trying to say is that those choices that we make, they're influenced by evil powers, by good powers, and who are we going to listen to?"

"Though I had never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment," Lewis once said of The Screwtape Letters. McLean said he believes that's because Lewis was forced to really dig in to his own sin patterns, giving himself what he called "spiritual cramps."

Now, decades later, the show leads audiences to examine themselves in the same way.

"I wasn't really anticipating how people react to the end of the story," Mclean said. "And I don't want to give it away, but it really has this triumph of good over evil that really grabs people in a way that is one of the unexpected consequences."

*Originally published May 11, 2012.

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CBN News
Caitlin Burke

Caitlin Burke

CBN News

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