The Silver Summit Theatre Company launched its maiden voyage into the Utah theatre community with James Forsyth’s Screwtape, an original play based on the book “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S Lewis. The Captain at the helm of this ship was Michele Rideout, Director and Founder of Silver Summit Theatre Company, who also participated in the production. Ms. Rideout took a risk by opening her season with a lesser known script such as this. In some ways it paid off, and in some ways it did not.
My first compliment was the versatility of the set, lighting and costuming design. The set itself was incredibly simple. The same 3 pieces of furniture were transformed multiple times into multiple locations – bravo indeed! In an amazing choice made by Ms. Rideout, classic rock and modern music hits (i.e. Eminem and The Rolling Stones) were covered by classical musicians and this choice made the action on stage both ancient and perennial. The music reflected well the timeliness of the piece, and also reflected satirically the presence of sin as a continual thread through every period of time.
One of the main downfalls of the production lay within the script itself. The script is written with complex language: the type that one may expect to find in classic literature. It was based around text penned by the same author who crafted “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” The audience should be prepared to use their brain while watching rather than simply wait to be entertained. The humor in the script was found mainly in subtext which, in this case, was lost on the audience as the Actors plowed over the dialogue. I felt like an 8-year-old watching Hamlet for the first time; confused and unsure of the surroundings in which I had suddenly been placed. While the script itself had issues, the cast could still have pulled off a commendable performance, had they had faith in themselves or faith in the script. However, it felt as though they had neither. I can, as an actor, attribute some of this unsteadiness to ‘Opening Night Jitters’ as there were many bright spots in the performances they gave. Victoria Gonzalez (playing Judy Macadam) brought elegance to the stage. She was captivating, confident and truly a pleasure to watch. Andy Maizner, (playing Screwtape) stumbled at times with the numerous monologues the script demanded of him. However, he still managed to make the role sympathetic and humorous. As a seasoned veteran of Utah’s theatre community, he brought maturity to the piece which seemed to guide some of the less experienced actors and actresses. His presence on stage was much needed, and much missed when he was absent. John Rowland, (playing the demon with a soul – Wormwood) was precise in his characterization. He knew his character, his motivation and his methods. He owned them all. Although it took me roughly 30 minutes of the show to make any connection with him, I eventually became his advocate in the audience. I enjoyed the nuances in his performance, and the humanity he brought to the role. JayC Stoddard (making a cameo as Mr. Pike) was tragically underused in the performance. I would like to have seen him in a larger role.
The most miscast role was that of Slumtrimpet (played by Cami Rozanas) who was meant portray a female demon, whose specialty was sex. Her gift was the ability to steal a soul through use of carnal methods however, the only thing that suggested sexuality from her was the costuming. Her acting was overdone, and her dialogue was impossible to discern. I was never convinced she could seduce anyone, let alone be a master of the art.
My suggestions for this production? Slow down, and enjoy the ride. Find the humor in the details, and retain focus on the message you are trying to convey. Believe in the words, and believe in your talent: We will come along on this ride with you.
SCREWTAPE, presented by The Silver Summit Theatre Company, Nov. 29 thru Dec. 2. Performances on Dec 1 are 2:30 and 7:30 PM and Dec 2 at 5:30. Tickets available at: http://www.buyyourtix.com/tickets/SilverSummit/Screwtape