Several months ago, Porter signed us up for a pre-anniversary present of tickets to the Orlando performance of The Screwtape Letters. I tucked them carefully away in my Tickler file, and last week they popped up. I'm very grateful for the Tickler and for Google Calendar—when you book things so far in advance it's all too easy to forget, especially in a season of other big events. It was a delightful post-Christmas outing.
The location, the Plaza Live theater, was initially disappointing, as it looks—and smells—like the converted movie theater it is. But that was easy to forget once the show started.
Not so easy to ignore was the excessive volume of the music and sound effects. I did not want to resort to my earplugs, because the speaking part was of a reasonable volume, but after several assaults I gave up, and was still able to hear the monologue. Yes, it's a monologue, though not a one-man show. But the other character, Screwtape's secretary, Toadpipe, is a mime. And played by a woman, so maybe it is a one-man show after all.
How do you adapt a book, consisting entirely of a series of letters, to the stage? With difficulty, but they did a commendable job. The stage setting is in Hell, where Screwtape is dictating his letters. Toadpipe's acrobatics and the sound effects provide enough action to keep the show moving. For what it is, the show is very well done, and should have large audience appeal. It received a very positive review from the Orlando Sentinel. Even I enjoyed it, no doubt because the script was so faithful to the original. I know the book well enough to recognize that large sections were performed verbatim. Much was, of necessity, left out—I had wondered how they would handle the part where Screwtape turns into a cockroach; they didn't—and there were one or two places where I thought there might have been just a little modernization. But it's hard to beat C.S. Lewis for writing, so I'm glad they didn't try. Best of all, the show stays true to the character of the book.
No show could replace the book itself. But for an introduction to the book, it's a good performance. If only they had turned the volume down!