By Hannah Kreinbrook, correspondent
After three years, “The Screwtape Letters,” a play adapted from of the novel by C.S. Lewis, is returning to Chicago. “It will be our first time back and we are excited. For the six months we were there, the show really took off,” said award-winning actor Max McLean, founder and president of the Fellowship for the Performing Arts (FPA) and the adaptor/star of the play.
When “The Screwtape Letters” made its first appearance in Chicago, critics raved over the performance. The Chicago Sun-Times called the play “Smart, sizzling entertainment!” and the Chicago Tribune concurred, dubbing it, “Most successful show in the history of Chicago’s Mercury Theatre.” In addition to Chicago, the 90-minute production is now spanning over 50 major cities, including San Diego, Seattle, Atlanta and Indianapolis.
When fellow adaptor of “The Screwtape Letters,” Jeffrey Fiske, first encountered McLean performing on stage, Fiske contacted McLean and said he would make an incredible Screwtape. “I wasn’t sure whether to take that as a compliment or not,” McLean said, considering the character’s wicked nature. But after some thought and hard work, Fiske and McLean received the rights for the play in 2005, and McLean took on the role of Screwtape.
After its first production in New York, the play became extremely popular. McLean explained it has been an incredible journey as he sees how the audiences respond to the strong spiritual truths within the script, which is in part due to McLean and Fiske’s desire for the play to be very true to C.S. Lewis and his writing. McLean explained, “At least 97 percent of the script stems directly from the book. We’ve tried to remain very faithful to the morally inverted universe that Lewis has created.” As in Lewis’ novel, the play takes place in an office in hell—the office of Satan’s psychiatrist, Screwtape, to be exact. Screwtape’s job is to lure people to damnation, as hell needs human souls to feed on. His assistant, Toadpipe the creature demon, helps him in his mission. Here, Screwtape dictates letters through Toadpipe to instruct a new demon, Wormwood, in the ways of tempting Christians so they might come quickly and safely to hell.
McLean is returning to Chicago to perform his role as Screwtape once again in March. The production will be presented at the McAninch Arts Center Mainstage at College of DuPage, Friday, March 16 through Sunday, March 18, and at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Saturday, May 19. Since the show has sold out in Chicago before and continues to sell out in multiple cities, those interested should look online at screwtapeonstage.com to purchase tickets soon. For more information on FPA, visit screwtapeonstage.com/aboutus.