Screwtape is an adaptation of C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast (an after-dinner speech given by Screwtape at the Tempters’ Training College for young demons). Both address Christian theological issues, mainly those of temptation and resistance to it. The story is told through a series of letters written by senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. In John D. Huston’s one man show version, Screwtape is a contemporary bureaucrat, who builds his career on preparing young tempters for the serious duty of re-routing the race away from Heaven and toward Hell.
Huston sticks to the statement in the preface of Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters that states “The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime”…… but … in well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars..” He builds his character with the persuasion and poise bestowed only to those born as natural story tellers. The show is set up as a lecture to junior tempters, which is constantly interrupted by Screwtape’s nephew’s frequent phone calls.
Huston carries the burden of the show in a flawless manner. His pacing is perfect, movements energetic and timely, and his diction is mesmerizing. Unfortunately, the continuous interruptions, meant to add to the dynamic and to spice up the play, break the structure. The result of this is a lost thread of thoughts and ideas. The length of the show does not help, either. Regardless of the strong acting, 80 minutes is way too long for a one-person show.
By the Book Productions
Adaptation by: John D. Huston
Screwtape plays at Saint Paul’s Eastern Church