Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Screwtape Play

We had a real treat last night, courtesy of a friend here in Chicago: a live performance of "The Screwtape Letters." The play was a wonderful adaptation of C. S. Lewis' clever work
--with only two actors: Screwtape, the senior devil and mentor-in-temptation, and his assistant, a  kind of gremlin, Toadpipe. Basically,  it was a monologue, since Toadpipe had no actual lines (just a variety of chattering sounds and screeches). The play opened earlier this month, and has been extended through January 3--very good news for Chicago. If you're in the Windy City, do try to attend.
Our experience did have a bit of the hellish on the side, I have to admit. First of all, we had a great deal of trouble buying tickets. Sr. Helena called weeks ago, and was told that tickets could not be purchased by phone. Since the ubiquitous Ticketmaster was not actually selling the tickets, either, we were resigned to purchasing them, as we had been told on the phone, at the box office, about an hour before the show. Then on Sunday I noticed that, as subscribers to the Chicago Tribune, we were qualified for a special buy-one-get-one-half-off discount. From Ticketmaster. So Sr. Helena tried again. An hour later, she was speaking once more with the same operator who had insisted that tickets could not be purchased by phone. Not only was our chosen date (tonight, Thursday being our "community day") sold out, there were only four tickets left for Wednesday! (And, according to our knowledge at the time, the show was to close on Nov. 1!) We took what we could get, and (yes) purchased the tickets by phone.
Last night, then, we boarded the Brown Line L train and headed north. We found the Mercury theater,  a throng crowded in its tiny foyer. Sr. Helena scooted into the box office-cum-bar and came back with four tickets. Oddly, they were marked "FL OBS." We were in Row 1. As we walked to the front of the theater, the temperature kept dropping.  (We would keep our coats and scarves on throughout the performance.) When we got to our row, we found out what FL OBS meant: "floor obstructed." The stage had been built out over our laps. (I don't know how Sr Irene, who is six feet tall, managed to fit her long legs in the bit of space she was allowed) Then the play opened, with a thick fog pouring out from the corner of the stage nearest us. This theatrical fog had a certain scent to it--I suppose to evoke the sense of burning? At any rate, I kept my scarf over my nose and mouth all night! Then I set my neck at an awkward angle to watch the play.
Despite all the discomfort, I really enjoyed the performance. It was a great way for Lewis' insights to provoke reflection: in fact, as we left the theater, a tall man walked alongside us saying (with that typically Protestant expression that we Catholics ought to take hold of), "I feel convicted!" Lewis' message had struck home for him.
As if it hadn't struck home for me, too, I found today's first reading from Ephesians 6 only renewing my reflections. As Election Day draws closer, I keep envisioning our country approaching a crossroads. Both paths before us lead to darkness; one is a slow descent, the other precipitous. And I'm scared. St. Paul tells me, "Draw your strength from the Lord... Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the ruler of the age..." All we have to do is "put on the armor of God" (St. Paul tells us this twice) and stand firm. Despite all the clever deceptions the enemy of humankind has devised, Jesus has already won the victory.

No comments: