We find ourselves in a starkly decorated church basement with every detail so perfectly assembled (Set Design: Sotirios Livaditis) that we can also imagine a slight mold or mildew smell. The lights come on the cast in various postures, eyes mainly closed, summoning Christ to their relief in English mumbles becoming a foreign tongue, and building in crescendo in a take two initiated by their apparent leader Ada (Kiayla Ryann) .
If you aren’t creeped out already- and like this writer you probably are—when we see the group leader Ada, who has been eyeing her charges from aside as she sips her once iced drink, lay on her smarmy affect we feel a need to bolt. Yet we stay--- we the audience --living out the same no-chains-visible bondage as these would-be missionaries in Ada’s charge.
This new harvest of missionaries includes an obviously mismatched couple: Denise (Kathryn Acosta) and Marcus (Taylor Del Vecchio); Tom (Collin Quinn Rice), a young man trying to use prayer to cope with his ongoing panic attacks; and recently orphaned Josh (Raphael Diaz), who, unlike his peers doing a 4-month stint, plans to stay forever in the war-torn middle eastern country where they are soon going to spread the gospel.
Josh’s sister Michaela (Paloma Nozicka) has just arrived back in town hell-bent to spare her younger brother from making what she sees as the mistake of his life. That she hadn’t been there during their father’s long alcoholic decline or for his funeral doesn’t lend her pleas for sanity much credibility in Josh’s mind.
Griffin Theatre Mounts Script by MacArthur “Genius”
The back stories of each of these characters are so well-drawn in this script by award-winning playwright Samuel D. Hunter that we can feel like we’ve known them all our lives. For this writer though, the pièce de resistance script gem is when Denise, during an evangelizing play-acting exercise, proffers an argument for atheism suggesting we all just grow up and admit that our lives’ purpose might be more akin to opening a soda can and drinking its contents. This unlikely soda can poetic image bookends the script.
When Chuck (Patrick Blashill), the father of anxiety-ridden Tom and founder of the church makes his entrance we realize that up until now Hunter has been seducing us with brainwashing-lite. Chuck personifies the heavy guns of spiritual abuse, giving all of us a window on how it goes down. (Spoiler Alert!) His short electric scene is by this writer’s lights also the most damning expose of gay conversion therapy one can imagine.
How you feel about The Harvest will no doubt be largely shaped by how much your personal life has brought you into a similar realm of psychological abuse- spiritual or otherwise. Fundamentalists are advised to steer clear.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Playwright: Samuel D. Hunter
Director: Jonathan Berry
Cast: Kathryn Acosta, Patrick Blashill, Taylor Del Vecchio, Raphael Diaz, Paloma Nozicka, Collin Quinn Rice and Kiayla Ryann.
Production Team: Sotirios Livaditis (scenic design), Mieka van der Ploeg (costume design), Heather Gilbert (lighting design), Sarah Ramos (sound design), Lacie Hexom (properties design), Catherine Allen (production manager), Spenser Diedrick (asst. director) and Jacqueline Marschke (stage manager).
Thru August 25
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 3 pm.
Note: added performances on Monday, August 20 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, August 25 at 3 pm.
1333 N. Milwaukee Ave.