Written by Sherry
Thursday, 24 September 2009 09:45
The brilliant Fellowship of the Performing Arts production of The Screwtape Letters has been playing about the country to rave reviews for 3 years now. In D.C., it played to standing room only audiences. The Chicago Tribune called Screwtape "the most popular show in the history of the Mercury Theater."
The fall, 2009 tour includes Chatanooga, Fort Lauderdale, Louisville, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. It looks marvelous.
There is one review that I found especially interesting in light of our recent discussions on reaching young adults.
It is from a Millennial heavily involved in the New York comedy sketch scene. Daniel Kelley, writing for NYtheatre.com, begins with lavish praise:
"The Screwtape Letters is just about everything you want in a night at the theatre. Thought-provoking, engaging, entertaining, well produced, performed and directed, and all based around the wonderful words of C.S. Lewis."
But ends with these thought-provoking observations.
"With all this marvelous stagecraft going on—from directors and actors, to writers and designers—my one question upon leaving the theatre was this: Why were my companion and I the youngest people in the theatre by at least 10 to 15 years?
There are obvious answers to this question, of course, foremost among them being the ticket price, and the fact that the generation that grew up reading The Screwtape Letters is a generation far more than 10 or 15 years older than I.
The fact remains, however, that The Screwtape Letters is a play that should and, for my companion and myself, did resonate with my life and the lives of my peers. For instance, when Screwtape talks about the pompous heady-pseudo intellectuals that Wormwood's mortal is associating with, they might very well be the posturing, ripped-jeans-wearing hipsters often seen around Williamsburg these days. Or when Screwtape tells Wormwood, after his mortal has come through a great ordeal and become humble, that the surefire way to turn that humility into pride is to have him write a book about it, the whole audience laughed appreciatively, no doubt thinking of entire genres of self-help books of the "I've done this, and you can too!" variety.
Perhaps the most overwhelmingly alienating part of The Screwtape Letters for people in the age group of my companion and myself—ironic post-college twentysomethings—is the play's strong identification with Christianity. C.S. Lewis is one of the giants of Christian writing in the 20th century. Among many of my peers, Christianity is something for bible-thumpers and right-wing conservatives—something that we are predisposed to mock rather than venerate. In the sketch comedy world, where I work frequently, sketches featuring Jesus Christ are so common they are cliché.
It is therefore doubly important that ironic post-college twentysomethings like myself go and see The Screwtape Letters. What is presented is an intelligent, accessible, bitingly satirical and funny exploration of profound issues of right and wrong. This is not bible-thumping, this is serious meditation on issues having to do with the human experience—and it is important reminder of what Christianity can be. Whether you're Christian, Muslim, Jew or any other religion under the sun, The Screwtape Letters explores fundamental questions about how we live our lives, and make the decisions that we make.
In addressing the audience, Screwtape is addressing Wormwood, his youthful, inexperienced nephew on the nature of the world. It might be beneficial for those who are young like Wormwood to go and see this play."
This is not bible-thumping, this is serious meditation on issues having to do with the human experience—and it is important reminder of what Christianity can be.
Kudos to the men and women of the Fellowship of the Performing Arts. They have produced a work of art that does cross the divide. *If* we can get young adults, who may only associate Lewis with children's stories or may never have heard of him at all, to see it.
Consider inviting some young adults of your acquaintance along to Screwtape. And be prepared to have an interesting post-play conversation over a glass of wine or a few beers.