With the news that Paula White, a so-called “sham evangelist” will be on stage at Donald Trump’s inauguration — along with Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham — we know that the evangelical wing of the Republican Party has not been totally overshadowed by the plutocrats, the libertarian technologists, or the Alex Jones black-helicopter wing. So it’s fitting that San Francisco Playhouse kicks off 2017 with Lucas Hnath’s The Christians, a play about a humble ministry that’s unexpectedly become a megachurch.
Directed by SF Playhouse Artistic Director Bill English, The Christians looks at how Pastor Paul’s crisis of faith threatens to become a doctrinal schism that undoes everything he’s worked so hard to build. It’s hard enough for Americans to find common ground when basic facts are in dispute, but how do you do it when damnation and salvation are on the line? Less a diatribe against American Protestantism’s internal contradictions than a look at the issues that beset a successful evangelist, The Christians might teach a secular lefty a thing or two about faith.
Hnath, raised in the church in Orlando, Florida — and who wanted to be a pastor himself, at one point — writes movingly from his own experience. Better still, this production includes a 16 members of the First Unitarian Universalist Church Choir, under the direction of Tania Johnson and Mark Sumner, providing harmonic heft to an already acclaimed text. You’re going to want to TiVo Praise the Lord on the Trinity Broadcast Network for this one.
The Christians, Jan. 24 – March 11, 2017, at San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post St., $20-$125, 415-677-9596 or sfplayhouse.org/sfph/2016-2017-season/the-christians/