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  The Christians at Steppenwolf Theatre

The Christians

Steppenwolf Theatre
1650 N. Halsted Chicago

Pastor Paul has spent 20 years successfully growing his church from a small storefront to a gleaming megachurch, but now he fears that there may be a crack in the theological foundation. As he shares his new belief in the nature of salvation, the message is met with surprise and then growing trepidation from his closest confidantes in the congregation, threatening to create a schism within the church. Hnath's fascinating new play looks with great complexity and compassion at the relationship between belief and behavior-and its evenhanded, unbiased take on faith in modern America can be appreciated no matter what you believe.

Thru - Jan 29, 2017

Price: $20-$89

Stage: Downstairs Theatre

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 312-335-1650

Running Time: 1hr, 20mins

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  The Christians Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...The arguments in "The Christians" are spoken out in the open, mostly into the microphones that form a part of how this church worships. That is a crucial part of what makes this play so good — it acknowledges something most secular playwrights do not, which is that debate within churches has to play out in a world where one is expected to love those with whom one disagrees, however fundamentally. Everything about Irwin's performance shows what that can do to a pastor who embraces personal change. Churches may look and act like businesses, and need to pay attention to corporate concerns, but the debates therein easily can become matters of life and death. In the most profound sense."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...Now, in “The Christians,” his thought-provoking play that is receiving a rousing production at Steppenwolf Theatre, Hnath deals with religion in all its many aspects — from the interpretation of essential dogma (including visions of heaven and hell, and the salvation of the soul), to the many aspects of politics and business that now (and perhaps always did) involve the church. And in just 85 compulsively watchable minutes that feature both the peerless dulcet tones of veteran Steppenwolf ensemble member Tom Irwin and several other fine actors, as well as the voices of a spirit-raising choir, he dares to dance right into the fire and brimstone and moral ambivalence of it all."
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Hedy Weiss

Daily Herald - Highly Recommended

"...The subtle, complex performances befit Hnath's multifaceted characters and provocative subject. It's a subject difficult to convey, but worthy of debate."
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Barbara Vitello

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...Directed by K. Todd Freeman, The Christians is a gently compelling work of theatrical storytelling. It's performed as a church service, with Paul and the other characters' dialogues framed by musical interludes, as members of the church's five-person gospel choir deliver hymns of rapturous joy and ballads of mournful doubt before gradually moving on to a church that offers them the benevolent but authoritarian absolutism that so many religionists seek."
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Albert Williams

Windy City Times - Recommended

"...Tom Irwin is Steppenwolf's current face of Clueless White Male Privilege ( Paul's assistant minister takes his superior to task for the latter's easy path to unquestioning acceptance of a gospel that others have sacrificed mightily to attain ) and knows by now not to rely on cheap stereotypes for audience sympathy. So do the stalwart band of dissenters portrayed by Glenn Davis, Shannon Cochran, Robert Brueler and Jacqueline Williams under the direction of K. Todd Freeman. However uncomfortable their arguments might make you-the excellent choir offers rest breaks over the 80-minute brain workout-you will leave with an appreciation of the role religion plays in our society today."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Time Out Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...It's not hard to see parallels with more secular types of "congregations," actually-say, institutional theaters. Listen to longtime ensemble member Irwin relating the church's growth from storefront to sanctuary, with all the competing interests and fiduciary concerns inherent therein, and you could imagine The Christians as a parable for Steppenwolf itself. Hnath's use of worship-service tropes may turn off some congregants-if real-life church makes you itchy, K. Todd Freeman's faithful staging might provoke a similar reaction. But it's a serious and stimulating engagement with a corner of American life the theater rarely takes on."
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Kris Vire

Stage and Cinema - Recommended

"...We taste the cynicism behind this sad schism. If Jesus returns, Hnath suggests, he'll be re-crucified. Paul is martyred by the "good" worshippers of this integrated congregation for daring to denounce hell instead of sin and for insisting on inclusion over predestination. As this short play winds down, it's fascinating how hollowly we hear the hymns-until they cease altogether. Here's a faith that "passeth all human understanding.""
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Lawrence Bommer

Splash Magazine - Highly Recommended

"...Simply put, “The Christians”, is a fascinating work of theatre, both poignant and stimulating, that challenges us with vexing questions so profound that you may leave the theatre in stunned reflective silence. I for one am awed by this playwright. It’s astounding just how easily Mr. Hnath (pronounced nayth) was able to smoothly integrate such complicated subject matters into his play without it ever once feeling academic. More impressive is that he was able to accomplish all this in just 80 minutes."
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Justin LeClaire

Around The Town Chicago - 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!"
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Carol Moore

NewCity Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Over the course of eighty minutes, we see how Pastor Paul's momentary act of theological courage begins to tear his flock apart. In scenes with his wife (played by Shannon Cochran), a church board member (Robert Brueler), a distraught member of the congregation (Jacqueline Williams), as well as a second, more revealing encounter with Joshua, Pastor Paul reveals that he too suffers from the kind of pig-headed stubbornness that mistakes belief for certainty. In comparison to Joshua, who may be a zealot but who is at least an honest and clear-eyed one, Paul is a terrible pastor."
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Alex Huntsberger

Chicago Theatre Review - Recommended

"...This is a play that will challenge its audiences. No matter a patron’s religious beliefs there’s food for thought in this concise, yet inconclusive drama. It dares to ask some pretty controversial questions but it also has the good sense not to provide any pat solutions. Lucas Hnath’s play allows each audience member to formulate his own answers."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"..."The Christians" raises matters that invite examination whether the audience members are devout or casual believers, or maybe claim no beliefs at all. The play is well conceived and written, impeccably acted, and intriguing in the questions it serves up to the viewer. A post-show discussion is held immediately following each performance and I suspect they will be well attended, and the give-and-take animated."

Dan Zeff

The Fourth Walsh - Recommended

"...Director K. Todd Freeman handles this with authenticity. It sounds, looks and feels like church. The theatrical staging of a mega-church is even legitimized by Scenic Designer Walt Spangler's 700 Club-like creation. Freeman continues the realness by rolling out Hnath's drama with the civility of middle class, church goers. The arguments are courteous. The passionate ensemble that greeted me doesn't react with the same emotional level to their world being turned upside-down. Tension is lacking. I didn't expect the fires of hell to engulf the room but I continually waited for someone to damn someone to hell. THE CHRISTIANS aren't quite the zealot crusaders of the past."
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Katy Walsh

Third Coast Review - Recommended

"...K. Todd Freeman's direction is so sharp that the debate proceeds as if choreographed. Irwin's performance is entirely credible with a minimum of the unctuousness that one might expect of such a pastor. Davis, Cochran and Williams also are believable in their opposition to the doctrinal heresy espoused by Paul."
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Nancy Bishop

Picture This Post - Highly Recommended

"...One would be mistaken though, to think that playwright Lucas Knath's script is just about Christians, or even religion, for that matter. True, the spot-on set design by Walt Spangler, music by Jaret Landon and Lighting Design by Scott Zielinski sure give you the trappings of a mega-church. And, the issues that the main characters are grappling with are at the very core of a fundamentalist vs. less literal interpretation of the New Testament. The brilliance of the script is that it ultimately becomes a story about bonds of trust and how we humans can do a lot to deceive ourselves, even more than we deceive others. And, with the aid of a simple microphone prop, there is also a constant observation of what is said for public consumption vs. more honest murmurings from the heart."
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Amy Munice

  The Christians Photo Gallery

   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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