Screwtape’s nephew, Wormwood, a novice demon, has been assigned to snatch a soul for Hell. His instructions on how to accomplish the task come in a series of letters from his uncle, who’s in mid-level management in the Lowerarchy. Anthony Lawton’s crafty adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s novel went over so well in three previous productions that the Lantern has brought it back to round out their 20th anniversary season. I wasn’t able to see it on its last run, in 2010, and looked forward to this latest production. I was not disappointed. Scenes of provocation and control play out in an office, against the backdrop of a hellishly red curtain decorated with appropriately malevolent framed pictures. Among the pictures and titles projected on a framed screen are some that date from the war years, that is, World War II, back when C.S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters.
Lawton’s showmanship comes into play as he delivers Screwtape’s intriguingly reasoned advice to his nephew. His lectures on how to prevent the formation of virtue alternate with increasingly outrageous illustrative interludes. In these scenes Screwtape and his secretary, Toadpipe (Sarah Gliko) extrapolate from the letters’ themes in goading office encounters, fights, and slick dances. This demon and demonette get down devilishly well. Lawton’s Screwtape dances with very particularized motions, his expressions changing by the second. Gliko bewitches with ultra precise economy of movement in stylishly choreographed dances. This is one hell of an introduction to C.S. Lewis’s donnish reverse argumentation in action—discoursing on the philosophy of virtue through the skewed philosophies of hell. [St. Stephen’s Theater]. May 27-June 15, 2014. lanterntheater.org.