Pastor Paul (played expertly by Tom Irwin) has spent twenty years building a megachurch and now that the debt is paid off, he is ready to make a radical change. He declares in his sermon that there is no hell and that everyone is saved by Jesus. This is drastically different than what he previously preached, and the congregation is deeply stirred by the announcement. The first person to speak up is Associate Pastor Joshua who argues passionately with Pastor Paul over this divisive issue. The audience watches as the church begins to split apart at the seam. The future of the church is on unsteady ground.
The set is a perfect recreation of a megachurch. All the chairs are in exactly the right position. The band is correctly positioned on the left. Two large screens on either side of the stage display visuals along with lyrics to the songs. The carpet is the correct shade of purple. A giant cross hangs on the back wall. It’s amazing that all of this was built temporarily for this performance.
The choir begins singing 10 minutes before show time as people are finding their seats. They encourage everyone to sing and clap along to the songs which has the effect of transforming the audience into the congregation of the church. Then, when Pastor Paul takes the stage to deliver his sermon, he speaks directly to the crowd. He asks for everyone to bow their heads to pray, and many do because everything feels so real.
Of all the plays at Steppenwolf this year, this one had the largest amount of people stay for the talk-back. One audience member, who grew up going to a megachurch, was very impressed with the recreation. Because it was so accurate, he noticed the smallest detail that was out of place. When the Associate Pastor read from the Bible a few different times, he was clearly not on the right page based on the order of the chapters. It was only because the entire production was so real, that this small discrepancy could even be perceived. It truly is an expertly executed performance.
Will the church survive the schism? Will Christianity itself survive or go the way of many other dead religions? Can you live with someone who has different core beliefs (religious or political) than you?
Get your tickets now for The Christians through January 29th!
Also see our reviews of Domesticated with Tom Irwin and Hillary and Clinton written by the same playright, Lucas Hnath.
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