Guest / Limited Access /

Several times a week, Max McLean does something that most would want to avoid—forever.

He goes to hell. On purpose. And he has a devil of a good time doing it.

McLean, you see, is the eponymous star of The Screwtape Letters, a stage adaptation of C. S. Lewis's classic that has played to sold-out audiences over the last year and wowed critics in New York, Washington, D.C., and, most recently, Chicago.

For the part, McLean slicks back his silvery hair, dons a colorful smoking jacket, and—from a stage short on props but clearly representing a corner of the underworld—becomes a demon. Specifically, as Lewis put it, "His Abysmal Sublimity Screwtape, Under Secretary of the Satanic Lowerarchy." For 90 minutes, McLean dictates—with precise articulation to his wordless assistant, Toadpipe—those infamous instructional letters addressed to his nephew, Wormwood, a junior demon who is trying to lead his "patient," a new Christian, into temptation.

Lewis wrote that composing Screwtape had been a daunting task: "I never wrote with less enjoyment. … The strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp. The world into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst, and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness, and geniality had to be excluded. It almost smothered me before I was done."

McLean understands why Lewis, as the author, would feel that way. But as an actor, McLean feels nothing of the sort when he morphs into the character.

"It's really fun to play," he says with almost as much relish as when he's on stage. "I hate to admit it, but it really is. It's part Noel Coward, part Hannibal Lecter, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedShould Satan Be Part of Evangelism and Early Discipleship?
Subscriber Access Only Should Satan Be Part of Evangelism and Early Discipleship?
Or is the Devil too distracting?
TrendingLecrae Brings Reformed Rap to Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show
Lecrae Brings Reformed Rap to Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show
(UPDATED) Performance with The Roots was the first by a Christian rapper on late-night TV.
Editor's PickStudy: Where Are the Women Leading Evangelical Organizations?
Study: Where Are the Women Leading Evangelical Organizations?
That's the mystery the Gender Parity Project, whose results debut this weekend, sets out to solve.
Comments
Christianity Today
Devilish and Divine
hide thisMarch March

In the Magazine

March 2009

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.