Screwtape | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Screwtape, Tinfish Theatre. Hell has many literary faces, from fiery pits to drab rooms with no exit, but most authors agree that humans help book their own passage. James Forsyth's loose interpretation of C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters follows a trio of demons as they use subliminal trickery to recruit a young architect (Joel Friend). In the original novel, senior demon Screwtape writes a series of letters to young tempter-in-training Wormwood. Bringing this scheme to the stage, Forsyth filters out the moral specifics and adds all sorts of meaty dynamics--for example, a macho conflict between the old guard fiend (Vincent Lonergan) and the Young Turk (Marc Collins) and the introduction of the voracious Slumtrimpet, nicknamed "Slut" (Alison Burkmeier Aske), to complete the demonic triangle.

With such a great foundation--story fraught with tension, luscious characters, and the highest possible stakes--it's frustrating as hell (sorry) to point out this show's flaws, like the painful length (over three hours) and distracting cacophony of inconsistent, often mumbly English dialects (I counted seven). And though the casting of the hellish three is visually stunning--Collins is a large, lumbering foil to the unfailingly precise, flamboyant Lonergan--once Aske cartwheels onstage like a devilish Mary Lou Retton, she quickly devolves from supple sex fiend to shrieky girl mimicking adult female sexuality. Though this production's road is paved with good intentions, the play's redemption is not quite assured.

--Kim Wilson

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