Regional Reviews: Las Vegas
These musical lead-ins are the warm-up for Lucas Hnath's dramatic meditation on modern Christianity. The Cockroach Theatre Company's fine production features a talented cast under the smart direction of Mindy Woodhead.
Pastor Paul's humble storefront church has grown by leaps and bounds, and has just paid off the humongous construction debt it incurred for the massive new edifice that now accommodates its thousands of believers. In the same sermon in which he acknowledges this landmark event, Paul also announces a radical new direction for the churchone that requires his congregation to abandon one of their most fundamental beliefs. The churchgoers are stunned, as is Paul's more conservative Associate Pastor Joshua, who engages him in a vigorous debate that leads to a schism in the congregation. When the overwhelming majority sides with Paul, he forces Joshua out of the church. The small cadre that voted with Joshua soon follows.
As time passes, the ramifications of Paul's new doctrine start to sink in, and some of the faithful begin to question its soundness. Worse, they question Paul's sincerity. Soon, both his career and his personal life begin to unravel.
While a theological debate drives the narrative, Hnath's play has broader themesasking, for example, whether people would still choose to behave morally if they did not fear divine retribution. He also paints a compelling portrait of a man and a marriage in crisis.
Darren Weller gives a masterful performance as the charismatic Pastor Paul. Sabrina Cofield is equally compelling as Jenny, a questioning churchgoer whose increasingly pointed queries deliver a crushing blow to Paul's complacency. This pivotal scene starts quietly but builds in intensity; we can almost see the life force draining from Paul as it simultaneously animates Jenny.
Strong supporting performances include Joe Basso as Joshua, Gigi Guizado as Paul's wife Elizabeth, and Gary Lunn, bravely stepping into the role of Elder Jay on short notice. Jillian Austen leads the choir with subtle flair.
The Christians continues through June 4, 2017, Thursdays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, and Friday, May 26, at 8 pm at the Art Square Theatre, 1025 S. 1st St., Las Vegas, NV 89101. For tickets ($20; students, seniors and military $16) and further information, go to www.cockroachtheatre.com.