Members say: Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Intelligent, Great acting, Great writing

About the show

The first show in Playwrights Horizon's 15-16 season, 'The Christians' by Lucas Hnath is an idea-packed drama about a pastor of a megachurch whose changing beliefs send his congregation spiraling.

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Ten years ago, Pastor Paul’s church was a modest storefront. Now it houses thousands, with a coffee shop in the lobby and a baptismal font as big as a swimming pool. But Paul is about to preach a sermon that will shake the foundation of his congregation’s beliefs. Backed by a live choir, 'The Christians' is both epic and unexpectedly intimate, an unflinching look at faith in America — and its power to unite or divide.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

New York Post

"'The Christians' is a white-knuckled drama about . . . a theological battle. But there are no clear winners or losers in Lucas Hnath’s deeply affecting new play...As heated and heady as the disputes become, Hnath and director Les Waters keep the show absorbing on a very human level. This is a production we can believe in." Full Review

The New York Times

"'The Christians,' is the first important new play of the young fall season...It has been ingeniously staged by the director, Les Waters...Mr. Hnath is one of the freshest playwriting voices to emerge in the past five years or so. He’s also an adventurous thinker in terms of style and content...'The Christians' is Mr. Hnath’s most penetrating work, but what you take away is the play’s ruminative gravity, and how each character is given an authentic voice and a complexity of feeling." Full Review


"This challenging and unfailingly intelligent work brings an off-Broadway audience into the heart of a place few of them would be caught dead: a Christian megachurch. Even more amazingly, it makes us care deeply about that church and the people within...Hnath approaches the subject with disarming sincerity." Full Review


"The problem with the play is that the cleric who sets off the hullabaloo that tears the congregation apart is just as bland as the scenery. To heighten this emotional distance (and spiritual alienation) between the preacher and his flock, all the characters whisper-speak into handheld microphones — even in intimate scenes...But if Pastor Paul is personally insipid (and suitably played so by Andrew Garman), his spiritual crisis is dynamite." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"It's so rare to see religious beliefs depicted onstage without condescension that Lucas Hnath's new play becomes all the more intriguing...'The Christians' is an ambitious, effort that deserves attention. But even though attention must be paid, the work proves disappointing in its overly stylized presentation and lack of dramatic impact." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"In his extraordinary new play 'The Christians' at Playwrights Horizons, Lucas Hnath grapples with dogma itself...In the strange, superb direction by Les Waters, the distancing elements are amped up. The result is a kind of 'public service': an exurban passion play. The surprise is the passion part; through some trick of perspective, and excellent acting, the abstractions enhance rather than cancel the emotion." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Although superbly staged by Les Waters and the use of microphones serves to both amplify and distance the coiled language, Hnath seems to lose nerve as he goes...There are so few plays that take on big moral questions, and Hnath is a serious writer, so I can still recommend 'The Christians,' but I cannot promise ecstasies of Heaven." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Lucas Hnath has come up with a provocative, engrossing argument and put it into a well-constructed and arresting frame. What seems to be a visit to a typical fundamentalist megachurch eventually turns into a religious tug-of-war. Thanks to Mr. Hnath and director Les Waters, it's a highly theatrical one...Mr. Hnath clearly knows the territory. Combine this with a provocative thesis and even-sided handling, and what you get is a thought-provoking intellectual exercise with his Christians." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"'The Christians' is remarkable for many reasons, but first of all because it takes its characters, and their arguments, seriously. It is not a work of satire, and we are not invited to feel superior...Instead, it examines, with uncommon lucidity, how those who sincerely profess to love Christ can differ so violently in their definitions of goodness...It's hard to think of another play that speaks so pertinently to this particular moment in history." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"This is a play asking legitimately difficult questions about belief and behaviour and not providing much in the way of answer. Still, it might seem a more conventional script, were it not for Hnath’s careful formal choices and for the infinite restraint that the director, Les Waters, brings to the service. With their help, we have a clever, searching and elusively profound work. Amen to that." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"What’s most unexpected about 'The Christians,' is that there’s not a scintilla of satire. Hnath, whose mother is an ordained minister, treats each character with respect. His aim seems not to score points but to explore the nature of faith and the politics of a church like this." Full Review

New York Theatre Guide

"This is a massively well-intentioned play that pits people, each of whom believes that they are acting according to the voice of their God, against one another...Hnath offers only questions that hit home and leaves the answers to us. This is not a new concept – think Greek tragedies here. It is, however, an updated examination focused on a specific corner of our society that rarely gets a balanced treatment." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"A good example of the modern discussion drama. Hnath has managed to put a gripping theological problem into a novel dramatic format and to humanize it through a central character whose pride goeth before his fall." Full Review

AM New York

"Even if you do not have a theological background, 'The Christians' is captivating as a modern-day tragedy. Les Waters' production is first-rate." Full Review

The Clyde Fitch Report

"As directed by Les Waters and played by the cast, Hnath’s efforts to present balanced arguments pay off. Garman, especially, is so convincing as Pastor Paul that spectators may forget they’re in a theater and not in a sanctuary...Everyone else on the altar/stage is every bit as persuasive." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"An edge-of-your-seat treatment about the way we all approach belief...That he manages it entirely without villains pushes 'The Christians' straight to textual success. As a play in performance, however, the seams are not invisible. Though its implications stretch well beyond just those of present-day, commercial Christianity, the depth of discussion about topics related to it may put off theatregoers who aren't well versed or interested in it." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

'The Christians' takes matters of faith and creates a effective play that really takes a complicated issue and makes it black and white...It’s first-rate cast and it’s simplistic production values make it a safe bet for theatregoers especially those from the mid-west...Debate is what 'The Christians' ignores. This is an issue swathed in shades of gray and they are not unearthed just glossed over." Full Review

New York Daily News

"In 'The Christians', a pastor of a massive megachurch shares an epiphany with his congregation of thousands: Everybody is saved; heroes and Hitler go to heaven...Those are the basics of Lucas Hnath’s intriguing if not exactly illuminating look at irreconcilable differences within faith and family...Hnath doesn’t attempt resolutions. But you can bank on this Playwrights Horizons production to make you think. As a conversation-starter, it’s a little bit of heaven." Full Review


"Though hardly without fault lines, Mr. Hnath has managed to create a compelling drama from a setting and situation that not only sounds preachy, but relies on a sermon to get going. And director Les Waters has guided the excellent cast to believably express their characters' certainties and uncertainties in a natural, often pause-filled style...As expected with any Playwrights Horizon production, the design work is state-of-the art." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"Hnath’s ambition in tackling the thorny topic of religion, his unusual structuring, his stylistic choices such as having the actors only speak through microphones are all intriguing. And yet, the results, at least for me, were less than stirring... I admire Hnath’s bold ambition and look forward to his upcoming play at New York Theatre Workshop. I just wish the results had turned out better this time." Full Review


"When a big, modern, evangelical church with a charismatic preacher has a crisis -- at least in a play -- it is hard not to expect another sex or embezzlement scandal. This is far from the case, fortunately, in 'The Christians,' Lucas Hnath's compact and thoughtfully provocative drama." Full Review


"Despite a fine production, directed by Les Waters, with solid acting all around, 'The Christians' never evolves into a compelling human drama. It remains, for better or worse, a humane, fair-minded debate of clashing religious beliefs." Full Review


"A play about faith and religion in a mega-church that treats its potentially fraught subject with respect...a thoughtful and artfully acted 90-minute drama...What I found most interesting about 'The Christians' is the way it compels Paul - and so, us - to think about not only what he believes, but also why he believes it." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"Hnath treats all sides of the theological debate with equal respect and the arguments are compelling but they're delivered as mini-sermons, spoken through hand-held mics....Even though the performances, under the quiet direction of Les Waters, are impeccable, I couldn't help feeling as though I were sitting in a theology class instead of a theater. " Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Les Waters’s direction is puzzling. Characters speak through microphones, which makes sense when they’re in the church but not when, for example, Linda and Paul are in their bedroom. Similarly, all the action is set within the front section of the church, even though it’s clear from the script the story has moved elsewhere. It’s confusing. Much of the play takes place after the day of the sermon, but the visuals would have you think otherwise." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Overrated, Inventive staging

See it if you want to see a choir of non actors sit on stage, sing for a bit, then watch the play as spectators bedecked in choir robes.

Don't see it if you want nothing to do with religion & questioning belief systems, or if mega churches freak you out.

Clever, Intelligent, Must see, Relevant, Great staging

See it if You enjoy moral quandaries, are up for exploring questions of adherence to questionable aspects of faith traditions & faith institutions

Don't see it if There is no reason not to see this play unless you would be offended by a debate about the nature of God & faith institutions

Also The play explores the tension between being a moral leader & being the... Read more Read less

Relevant, Resonant, Entertaining

See it if you are religious.

Don't see it if don;t want to be preached to.

Absorbing, Relevant, Entertaining, Smart

See it if you want to delve into religion and it's discontents and you want to see everything Lucas Hnath comes up with...and you should.

Don't see it if you don't like stagey arguments and religion puts you off.

Ambitious, Delightful, Profound, Refreshing, Great writing

See it if you want a courageous, warm-blooded, and wise deep-dive into the nature of compassion and connection, and why we sometimes fail at them

Don't see it if you're looking for something cynical or parodic-- it's a wonderfully earnest show

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Cliched, Entertaining, Ok evening

See it if you have never challenged your own thinking about organized faith and religion.

Don't see it if you are a critical thinker about religion and faith and want more in-depth insight than a well-thought out 90 minute skit.

Ambitious, Intelligent, Entertaining, Unusual

See it if You're interested in the exploration of alternative forms of theatrical storytelling. Most of this show is a sermon delivered by microphone.

Don't see it if You do not like plays about religion.

Original, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy theological conundrums, have your own questions about faith and what makes a person truly righteous.

Don't see it if You cannot have your questioned or held up to new light.

Original, Intelligent, Masterful, Refreshing, Resonant

See it if You appreciate the ability of a playwright to make you re-think issues you thought you were very certain on before you walked in.

Don't see it if You need super fast-moving dialogue and action or big sets; this one is a slow study and requires your focus.

Original, Refreshing, Resonant

See it if you want a thinker!

Don't see it if you are offended by religion.

Absorbing, Profound, Great writing, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you want to have your mind opened to new ideas.

Don't see it if you are closed minded.

Original, Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Great writing

See it if you like a new play that is extremely relevant and entertaining. thought provoking too

Don't see it if you are a jesus loving zealot with no room for any other opinions or thoughts.

Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if you love new work that stretch the idea of theatre can do.

Don't see it if you are not interested in an unconventional narrative with hot topic issues.

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if you're interested in considering different points of view, you appreciate thoughtful pieces, you are fascinated by MegaChurches.

Don't see it if you're uncomfortable with questions about religion.

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant

See it if Like philosophical thought provoking

Don't see it if Dislike the above

Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Profound

See it if you are interested in a philosophical challenge.

Don't see it if you want something fluffy and light.

Cliched, Overrated, Slow

See it if you don't care about drama or plot inertia and want to see a thesis played out on stage

Don't see it if you want characters that aren't just a mouthpiece for the playwright and you prefer your theater to actually be theater.

Disappointing, Interesting, Entertaining, Poor writting, Middling acting

See it if you have time

Don't see it if you don't like plots that don't make sense.

Boring, Disappointing, Cliched, Overrated, Slow

See it if You like plays that comment on religion and enjoy religious debates.

Don't see it if You don't like social commentary on religion.

Banal, Excruciating, Cliched, Insipid, Overrated

See it if religious talk is your thing in lecture format.

Don't see it if you've already heard all the religious debates before and rather see something w/ depth and theatricality and something new to say.

Ambitious, Cliched

See it if my wife liked it. I thought it would offend many

Don't see it if if feel strongly about your religion and cannot tolerate other opinions

Absorbing, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to confirm/disclaim if the emotional distance of religious doctrine impacts you personally or as a group. Well acted. Good dialogue

Don't see it if This topic is of no interest to you. Although you might still enjoy hearing the arguments made.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant

See it if you're in the mood for a thought-provoking examination of faith in America. Wonderfully acted!

Don't see it if the religious service format makes you uncomfortable.

Absorbing, Intense, Thought-provoking, Profound, Great writing

See it if you love to see 'faith' be dealt onstage in the way we, real humans, deal with it

Don't see it if you don't feel like thinking

Intelligent, Thought provoking, Well written, Great production

See it if Like important issues raised and explored, without yielding hollow answers; appreciate fine writing and great acting.

Don't see it if Want your plays to get resolved tidily.

Cast & Creatives (12)