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. More…
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.
"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
"'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
"'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
"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 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
"It succeeds at getting its audience members to sheathe momentarily their daggers and engage critically with the topic of religion. Hnath initiates a new type of dialogue about faith, a dialogue free of sarcasm, condescension and judgment...Devout Christians and staunch non-believers alike often field challenges to their belief systems, and perhaps both camps deserve many of the criticisms they receive; however, they also deserve respect." Full Review
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"I was still completely engaged and enthralled throughout the evening. There were so many questions and ideas being tossed around and I especially loved that there were no real answers given...All I can say is I found so much to think about, struggle with, and enjoy in this play. It's such a treat to feel invigorated by smart, original writing." Full Review
"'The Christians' asks some pretty hard (and fair) questions about what we believe and why we believe it - and how much are we willing to sacrifice for our faith. The reality he captures is evidence of Hnath's intimate understanding of the controversies of church life and of the personal struggles involved in a deeper walk of faith...While I thoroughly enjoyed the play, I had to wonder whether many of its subtle truths would be lost on those in the audience who haven't experienced church like... 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
"In Les Waters’ presentational staging, which has the actors using hand-held microphones throughout, it falls to lighting designer Ben Stanton to differentiate between the open and closed-door meetings, and he does a superlative job in helping theatergoers understand when the action has shifted. Equally impressive are the performances." 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
"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
"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 Christians' is a moving and rhetorically intricate rumination on the self-righteous and tragically divisive nature of belief systems... Some characters quirks, intended, I believe, to inject some lightness into the play, miss their mark a bit and come off as inappropriate rather than irreverent amidst heady contemplation." Full Review
"What playwright Lucas Hnath has done is truly courageous; he shows us people of faith who are good, decent human beings holding on to what they believe, even though it may cost them what they cherish. The staging used by director Les Waters is unique, and for the most part, effective." Full Review
"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
See it if you love straight plays grapple in a deep way with religious faith and doubt, enjoy strong performances, and strong writing.
Don't see it if you hate straight plays, are not interested in plays dealing with religion and with Christianity in particular, do not enjoy talky plays.
See it if you are religious, if you aren't religious, if you are human.
Don't see it if you're unwilling to experience sensitive subject matter. You don't want to be absorbed thinking about a play weeks after you have seen it.
See it if You came up practicing, are currently engaged in or have ever passed judgment on the Christian faith and are ready to think about why.
Don't see it if You have to see this play!
See it if You are interested in a play of ideas with consistently great acting, writing, and directing.
Don't see it if You are afraid of theatre that will make you think and come up with your own answers to questions asked by the playwright.
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
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
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.
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.
See it if you're intrigued by pieces that present challenging questions and are masterful & courageous enough to withhold a clear answer.
Don't see it if you're in the mood for something light. There are great comedic moments, but this piece is primarily thought-provoking (in the best way).
See it if you are looking for an interesting, smart, 90 min, different play, not afraid from long monologues
Don't see it if you would be bothered from the use of microphones with cords at all times, against religious ponders
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.
See it if You're interested in thought-provoking drama. This show had terrific performances, and presented both sides of a religious question fairly.
Don't see it if You prefer your shows to be pure entertainment.
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.
See it if /since dramatically shows how destabilizing the questioning of religion's premise can be; strong lead Andrew Garman
Don't see it if /since production takes time to lift off; once gets going, brilliantly explores intersection of conscience/belief/community cohesion/loyalty
See it if You are or ever were a religious believer of any sort and sympathize with the struggles of belief and doubt
Don't see it if You need lots of action, you dislike plays about doubt, or you are repulsed by religiousity
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.
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