Religion pushes buttons. The play The Christians pushed said buttons big time.
With the stage set up like an amphitheater the actors play to the audience as if they were conducting a sermon in a church. The dialogue takes a roller coaster ride through a tale of morality.
Behind the pulpit if a chorus that occasionally breaks into song, and to stage left an organist who supplies a steady theme song. The crux of the matter is whether a true Christian, at least the members of this church, believes that a non-Christian will go to hell no matter how righteously they have led their life.
One by one, a handful of actors come forward to present their personal views: an associate priest; a member of the church’s board; the wife of the head priest.
In the program notes the play’s author Lucas Hnath writes about studying at a seminary, where the distinction of a single word can be changed by the translation.
Is a word to be translated from its original Greek, or Hebrew? Specifically does the word hell literally mean hell as in hellfire and brimstone or does it refer to a garbage dump on the outskirts of Jerusalem where perhaps the body of a crucified criminal would be dumped unceremoniously?
In its 90-minute running time The Christians runs a gamut of how people relate to each other and how institutions affect such decisions. The direction provides some stunning moments where the actors pause for such a long time you almost think they have forgotten their lines. Not the case – it’s more of a pause for personal reflection.
The Christians is currently running at the Alley Theatre until May 15.
— Michael Bergeron