"The Christians is a play about the pastor of a very very big church. And what happens when he... reveals to the congregation something that he has found out... that the Bible doesn't quite say something that we think it says. And then the reaction of the congregation - which is not exactly what you'd expect. And then what happens after that is also not exactly what you'd expect. And then what happens as a result of that is also not exactly what you'd expect... and the whole play just sort of tumbles forward."
- Lucas Hnath, playwright
At a tight 80 minutes with not a word wasted, The Christians is an emotional and intellectual ride through politics, faith, and dissension in a contemporary charismatic mega-church. Though the plot hinges on a doctrinal deal-breaker, the church is simply the setting for a snowballing series of interactions stunning in their simplicity, complexity, and astounding ability to keep audiences guessing what happens next.
Raised near Disneyworld, with no neighbors but a gun range across the street, playwright Lucas Hnath says his 'surreal' childhood prepared him for the stage. "Disneyworld was my first theatrical experience. It sort of informs everything that I write. I like it when plays feel like a ride." But through the twists and turns Hnath never quite lets on where his sympathies lie, not even in interviews. Instead, he confounds with competing arguments. "As long as your brain is searching for the answer, you're awake. Once you have the answer, you go to sleep," he argues.
The Christians premiered at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2014 and its 2015 New York production at Playwrights Horizons launched the play (and playwright) into the national spotlight. Critically appraised and widely produced across the United States, it has been embraced by secular and faith-based organizations alike. With a polarizing title, the play itself is anything but. The Christians concerns not only matters of faith, but questions of leadership, integrity, and unspoken rules for reconciliation. What happens when a man speaks what he believes, and shakes up not only his congregation, but the intricate framework of relationships his organization was built upon? Are beliefs a thing we hold on to in spite of the havoc they wreak, or is there room to hold other perspectives without losing our own?
"Church splits are Hell. This play about one isn't."
- Christianity Today