‘Screwtape,’ by Some Measures, Falls Short

Laurie Helmers, playing Slumtrimpet, left, Rich Mansfield, playing Screwtape, and George Skare, playing Wormwood, rehearse on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, for the upcoming production, “Screwtape,” at the Repertory Theatre in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

Part of the fun of “Screwtape” is seeing a depiction of what the “underside” of god’s creation thinks of the people populating the earth and how they can be brought to temptation and eventual damnation.

The script, written by James Forsythe as a stage adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ “The Screw Tape Letters,” has a healthy dose of satire. However, most of the humor is cerebral and requires an articulate cast to convey that humor. Unfortunately, some of it gets lost in this production.

In Rochester Repertory’s production of “Screwtape,” Rich Mansfield, as Screwtape, does exactly that when he’s perched on the various levels of a tight but intricate set. When he’s later joined by Laurie Helmers, as Slumtrimpet, Mansfield gets an equal on stage from both the script and the acting.

Screwtape’s charge is to oversee his nephew, Wormwood, who is on his first mission to bring a young man, Mike Green, referred to as “the Patient,” to the infernal depths.

George Skare, as Wormwood, brings a nervous energy to the stage conveyed with a dash of adept physical humor. He conveys an earnestness of wanting to do well at doing bad. However, his delivery and articulation keep his depiction of Wormwood from holding his own with Screwtape and Slumtrimpet.

For physical acting, Anna Landkammer, who glides across the stage as a prim and proper Judy Macadam, takes an excellent and convincing fall with the assistance of Ben Menning, who plays a directionless and rather lifeless Mike Green.

Despite clever satire, the script itself doesn’t give much depth to the human characters. However, proselytizing doesn’t create engaging dramas. The characters seem to have just enough dimension to fit into what is essentially an adaptation of a clever sermon.

–John Molseed, Post-Bulletin, January 20, 2020

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