The Alliance Theatre in Midtown will host the theatrical adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ novel “The Screwtape Letters” Friday through Sunday.
“It’s based on how the supernatural world, both good and evil, interacts in our lives unbeknownst to us almost every minute of every day, trying to influence our choices,” said Producing Artistic Director Max McLean.
The story takes place in hell, and the main character, Screwtape, is trying to corrupt and ruin the life of a man living on earth, by making small choices which would cumulatively add up to extraordinary consequences, McLean said.
The show, on a national tour, is considered to be a “dark comedy” in theatrical lingo, he said.
“The big themes are very serious, but how it gets there is very humorous,” McLean said.
Ten years ago, the initial idea to adapt Lewis’ novel to a theatrical performance came from a theatre professor McLean knew.
“It took a while to get the rights and adapt the book into theatrical script. It really got its legs in 2007 and it’s been going in New York, Chicago and D.C. for long runs,” he said.
McLean and Jeffrey Fiske wrote and directed the theatrical adaptation, and McLean played the role of Screwtape for the first two years.
This weekend marks the show’s third year in a row in Atlanta.
“We keep coming back, which is a good sign,” McLean said.
Brent Harris, who plays Screwtape, said his character dresses in fine, red silk, and the set is simple but “very evocative.”
“He set up a civilized enclave in the mid regions of hell,” he said. “It’s sort of a bureaucratic office where he dictates letters. There is a ladder going up to a pneumatic device, where Toadpipe, his secretary, puts letters and they get delivered to earth.”
Although Harris is an experienced actor, and played Scar in the national tour of “The Lion King,” he said he is challenged by “The Screwtape Letters.”
“It is the first time I have done a long, uninterrupted monologue,” he said. “It’s 85 minutes of talking on stage.”
Harris and McLean said anybody in middle school and up would enjoy the show.
“The language is challenging, but the play has a very broad appeal,” Harris said. “Even though Lewis was writing with religious ideas and a religious agenda, I don’t think that’s the exclusive audience for the play. I think the play has a lot to say about human behavior and the understanding of human psychology.”
Both men also said they hope for the audience to be entertained, but ask questions at the same time.
“I think one of the purposes of theatre is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable,” Harris said. “Someone feeling very self-satisfied — maybe they will ask questions about their state of being. If someone has been through a difficult struggle, maybe they will find some kind of kinship with what’s going in play and feel a sense of community. I hope they’re provoked into awareness that they didn’t have when they came into theatre.”
If you go:
o What: “The Screwtape Letters”
o When: Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
o Where: Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St., Midtown
o Tickets: $29 to $55
o Information: www.ScrewtapeonStage.com