Wednesday December 13th 2017

“The Christians” reviewed by Carol Moore

christians_2-200x300 Recommended *** I got a twofer at Steppenwolf the other night.  I saw/heard a rousing gospel concert, then I saw “The Christians”, a really interesting play which went in an entirely unexpected direction.  I like plays in which stereotypical characters don’t behave as expected.  My friends and I love dissecting a character’s motivations in our discussions on the drive home.  The more heated the discussion, the higher the rating!

If you want to hear some wonderful gospel music, you should be at Steppenwolf about 15 minutes early when the choir gets started.  The musicians and singers are: Faith Howard, Jaret Landon (Musical Director & Keyboards), Yando Lopez, Leonard Maddox Jr. (Drums), Jazelle Morriss, Mary-Margaret Roberts, Charlie Strater (Guitar & Choir) and Jacqueline Williams.  The voices are amazing, individually and collectively.  One soloist really stood out for me – Yando Lopez.

As the choir is performing, people started coming on stage, quietly greeting each other, then getting seated.  They sat, smiling, until the choir was seated at the rear, then the service began.christians_3-300x200

After laying out the points he wanted to make in his sermon – shown with graphics over B-roll on video screens around the space – Pastor Paul (Tom Irwin) announced that it was a day to celebrate because this week the church had made the last payment on the mortgage.

He talked about their start in a storefront.  Each week there were a few more people, and even more people, until they outgrew their space.  After several moves into ever larger spaces, they took a huge risk and built their own mega-church.

Looking back and smiling at his Wife (Shannon Cochran), Pastor Paul told a story about how he first spotter her in an airport.  Unfortunately, her seat was several rows behind his.  He wrote a note which he asked the stewardess to deliver.  Although I can’t remember his exact words, it went something like this, “I have an uncontrollable urge to communicate with you.”  After she read the note, she looked up and waved at him.

Paster Paul then took a radically new direction.  He said that while sitting on the toilet, he’d had a conversation with God – apparently something that happened often – and God told him that he needed to begin sharing something new with his congregation – hell doesn’t really exist.

His Associate Pastor (Glenn Davis), who firmly believed in hell, had a problem with this new direction.  Using his Bible, he questioned and challenged Pastor Paul, who was adamant about the new doctrine.  After a congregational vote, Associate Pastor and about 50 members left the church. christians_9-300x200

Elder Jay (Robert Breuler), the Board chairman, was the next to ask questions.  He didn’t particularly object to what the Pastor was preaching, he said, but he was worried about all the church members they were losing and the probable financial hit the church would take.

Although she kept it in the privacy of their home, even the Pastor’s Wife questioned this new direction.  She suggested that she might take the children and visit her mother.

Congregant and choir member, (Jacqueline Williams), gave testimony.  She said she was a single mother who was grateful for all the help the church had given her.  After she asked some hard questions which Pastor Paul couldn’t or wouldn’t answer, she too left.

christians_6-201x300The inherent questions:

  • What is faith?
  • How can one man ask another to change an entire belief system?
  • Can you/should you maintain an unpopular position when faced with opposition and scorn?

As I watched the choir performing, I noticed their clothes (I always notice clothes).  Although their outfits were very different, everything they were wearing was from the same color palette.  For the women, everyone wore basic black with some pattern using the same shades of brown, orange, yellow, and deep aqua blue.  Even Robert’s cowboy boots fit the color palette.  The same colors appeared in the men’s shirts, sweaters and ties.  My compliments to Costume Designer Nan Cibula-Jenkins.  They were all outfits I’d buy!

“The Christians” runs through January 29th at Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted Street, Chicago.

Running time is 80 minutes, no intermission.

I recommend arriving at Steppenwolf at least 10 minutes early to listen to the cast singing.

Performances are :

Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 pm

matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 3:00.

There are no performances Christmas Eve, December 24th or Christmas Day, December 25thchristians_8-300x200

Tickets range from $20-$89.  To order, call 312-335-1650 or visit www.steppenwolf.org

Parking is available for a fee in Steppenwolf’s adjacent garage. Metered street parking is also an option.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Christians”

 

 

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