When Organized Religion Becomes Over Grown at Jewel Box Theatre with “The Christians”
Although many people consider themselves somewhat religious following a basic belief system, such as Christianity, there is a feeling among many that organized religion has failed us. There is also a concern that perhaps we have failed organized religion. Nevertheless, it is a true and solid fact that in Church, like any other organization or entity, there are good people and bad people everywhere. There is also the shocking realization that good people can do bad things. What can be very disconcerting is that there is also the situation in which the things that people do may not necessarily be bad, but they can have unforeseen consequences that are not good. And it is very unfortunate that these things, perfectly normal in virtually every setting, can be absolutely devastating when they occur in a place of safety, where the people are trusted absolutely.
In “The Christians”, Lucas Hnath shows us a church that has grown over the past decade by leaps and bounds. The congregants are quite numerous now and they have contributed much to the beautiful new building. Pastor Paul is proud of the accomplishments of his new mega-church. His announcements are filled with pride and he is moving in a direction that some might find uncomfortable. The established minister is definitely on target as an up and coming pastor. He is expertly played by Kevin Wellfare.
Associate Pastor Joshua seems uncomfortable initially with the direction his minister is taking. As a pastor is necessarily a mentor the discomfort becomes disapproval, and the disapproval becomes impossible to accept. Ronn Burton plays Pastor Joshua, a young man filled with the love of God and the respect for his pastor that is ultimately eroded and becomes unrepairable. Nevertheless, he never loses his respect for the man Pastor Paul once was once. J. Christine Lanning is a pillar of the church and a pillar of the community. She seems uncomfortable with the new role the church undergoes and unsure of her place within the church. More specifically she must develop a new basis for her relationship with Pastor Paul. James Gordon is Elder Jay, and his place in the church also undergoes a significant change. Anna Steele is Jenny and her position in the church is undergoing the most dramatic of changes. Going to church is going to God’s House. It is a safe haven where the people there can be trusted with your soul. When there is a disappointment it can become devastating.
The most interesting thing about “The Christians” is different for each audience member. It is unavoidable to view the play without relating to the personal experiences we all have from our own childhoods in the church setting. While it is definitely true that people are people everywhere, The highest standards are usually from those who provide spiritual leadership. Without that compass the loss can be very great.
Derek Kenney’s direction creates a show that is relevant as well as relatable with the assistance of Meredith Kenney, Stage Manager, Brent Pederson, Costumer and Isaiah Williams, Lighting Designer.
The Christians” plays August 3 through August 20 in the Disciples First Christian Church located at 321 NW 36th St in Oklahoma City, OK. For information and tickets visit JewelBoxOKC.com or call the box office at (405) 521-1786. The Disciples First Christian Church and Rev. John Malget welcome you to the sanctuary to view “The Christians” along with, of course, Director Derek Kenney and Stage Manager Meredith Kenney, as well as Jewel Box Theatre Managing Directors, Richard Lemin and Deborah Franklin.