Welcome to THE CHRISTIANS Mega-Church
The curtain doesn’t exactly rise. Rather, you look around and realize the choir’s warm-up act in the church you somehow joined somewhere along the line has started to sing. You might not know why or when your joined that church, but you more than likely will find yourself clapping along, or at least tapping your feet. In the back of your mind, you might be wondering just what you’ve gotten yourself into.
Band and Choir includes: Jaret Landon (Musical Director & Keyboards); Leonard Maddox Jr. (Drums); Charlie Strater (Choir & Guitar); Faith Howard (Choir); Yando Lopez (Choir); Jazell Morriss (Choir) and Mary-Margaret Roberts (Choir).
The sermon begins by Pastor Paul (Tom Irwin). The screens on the mega-church wall help you follow along. His voice is soothing and amplified by microphone. We learn that the church’s decade-long struggle to attain financial solvency is behind them. The big news, however, is that Pastor Paul has grappled anew with his faith and decided that he, and in turn the flock he leads, will no longer believe in the burning fires of hell for non-believers. What ensues is an account of how the Pastor’s newfound theological roots stir up and cleave his congregation.
This is not a new theological divide in Christianity. Most debates on whether the devil exists and/or how to give the devil his due are more likely cloistered in the halls of Divinity Schools.
About Humans All, Not Just Christians
One would be mistaken though, to think that playwright Lucas Knath’s script is just about Christians, or even religion, for that matter. True, the spot-on set design by Walt Spangler, music by Jaret Landon and Lighting Design by Scott Zielinski sure give you the trappings of a mega-church. And, the issues that the main characters are grappling with are at the very core of a fundamentalist vs. less literal interpretation of the New Testament. The brilliance of the script is that it ultimately becomes a story about bonds of trust and how we humans can do a lot to deceive ourselves, even more than we deceive others. And, with the aid of a simple microphone prop, there is also a constant observation of what is said for public consumption vs. more honest murmurings from the heart.
Who would like THE CHRISTIANS?
If you like theater that engages and provokes thought “The Christians” is a top pick.
Your religious orientation, or lack thereof, may affect how literally you experience this story as only one showing a crisis of faith.
This is not recommended for anyone seeking a night of lighthearted laughs on their theater outing. You won’t leave depressed, but you will leave thinking.
Now through January 29
Tuesday through Sundays at 7:30
Saturdays and Sunday Matinees at 3:00
No performances December 24 or December 25
Steppenwolf Downstairs Theatre
1650 North Halsted
$20 - $89
Available by calling 312 335 1650 or visiting Steppenwolf.org
Photos: Michael Brosilow
An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.