Monday, June 19, 2017

"The Christians" - Theology Presented in a Most Entertaining Way

David Whalen and Mindy Woodhead in Kinetic Theatre's THE CHRISTIANS Credit: Rocky Raco

The Christians
Presented by Kinetic Theatre
June 16 - July 2
Pittsburgh Premiere
Written by Lucas Hnath
Directed by Andrew Paul
Musical Direction and Arrangements by Douglas Levine

Pastor Paul has spent 20 years successfully growing his church from a modest storefront to a gleaming megachurch, but he no longer believes in Hell, and he’s about to preach a sermon about it. He thinks all of the people in his church are going to be happy to hear what he has to say. He’s wrong…
The Christians is epic and unexpectedly intimate, an unflinching look at faith in America.
For tickets, phone 1-888-718-4253

I sat through this very thought-provoking play on opening night and got caught up in some interesting theological issues. So much so that II concluded I'd like to have attended a discussion group with a bunch of knowledgeable ministers afterward. The playwright, author of the much acclaimed "A Doll's House, Part 2" that's racked up 8 Tony Award nominations, including Best Play, poses some intricate food for thought about Hell and other doctrinal tenets most of us take for granted.

Joshua Elijah Reese, David Whalen, & choir in Kinetic Theatre's Pittsburgh premiere production of THE CHRISTIANS Credit: Rocky Raco
David Whalen as Pastor Paul puts in a valiant (and commendable) effort to get his points of view (beliefs)  across and opens up the gate to some heady reactions on the part of his congregation. Associate Pastor Joshua, played with passion and conviction by Joshua Elijah Reese, takes umbrage with Pastor Paul's debatable, (and perhaps heretical?) outlook and initiates the inevitable schism within the congregation.

Besides exploring the implications of the minister's new spiritual insights, the playwright includes some more practical concerns such as the economic impact his revelations has on both his church and the board of directors who govern it.

One of the most interesting elements of the practical argument comes from Jenny, a congregant (Gayle Pazerski), who confronts the minister with less than admirable motives some of his flock have attributed to the beleaguered cleric.

In addition to 90 minutes of scintillating dialogue, the audience gets treated to some fine Gospel music sung by Monteze Freeland, Natalie Hatcher and Missy Moreno that's part of the church service that anchors the play. It's like a mini concert full of spirit and electrifying harmony.

Coupled with the "Act of God," currently getting a staging at the Pittsburgh Public Theater, local drama lovers can certainly get their theological fix in a pair of contrasting plays that are both presented in an extraordinarily entertaining way.

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