THE BASICS: THE CHRISTIANS, a 2014 play by Lucas Hnath [say “NAYTH”], directed by Scott Behrend, starring Dave Hayes, Aaron Moss, Steve Jakiel, Victoria Pérez, and Lisa Vitrano runs through May 20, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays 2:00 at Road Less Traveled Theater, 500 Pearl Street (629-3069). Beer, wine, soda pop www.roadlesstraveledproductions.org
Runtime: 90 minutes without intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: A pastor at a “Megachurch” sermonizes that there is no such thing as Hell, and that God who truly loves us will accept all into Heaven. Even non-believers. All of us. No exceptions. Not all in the congregation are ready to accept this message.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: I have heard that hand-made Persian carpets have intentional flaws because the Muslim artists feel that only Allah is perfect. I could not spot any imperfection in the production of THE CHRISTIANS at Road Less Traveled.
Let’s begin with the actors. I would say that they were perfectly cast, except that might take away from their skills, which were considerable. As “Pastor,” RLTP regular Dave Hayes, who is adept at playing thoughtful, somewhat tortured souls here is able to also project the outward confidence of a pastor with a congregation of thousands. His suit fits perfectly, and his hair is just right for his character, a little too perfect and a little behind the times as would befit someone dealing with a traditional congregation. He was scary good. His “Associate,” played by Aaron Moss is a perfect foil, younger, hipper, and charismatic in his own powerful beliefs. Steve Jakiel as the “Elder” projects that oily, too smooth, demeanor, perhaps taking too literally Jesus’ admonition to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
And the two women in the cast play completely types, as do Pastor and Associate. Victoria Perez, as a “Congregant” has only one scene, and it’s a biggie, where she has to go from zero to sixty in 4.2 seconds.
On the other hand, Lisa Vitrano, as the wife, is the only person other than “Pastor” who is on stage for the entire play, and for most of that she has absolutely no dialog. Her drama slowly builds as she sits there, next to the right hand of Pastor, and through body language alone, she describes the entire arc of the play. Every actor is encouraged to have that “inner dialog” on stage so as to appear involved. Vitrano raised that to a fine art. Of course, when she does have “outer” dialog, look out!
Every actor is encouraged to have that “inner dialog” on stage so as to appear involved. Vitrano raised that to a fine art.
Anytime everything seems to go right, you have to look to the director, and here Scott Behrend brought his “A” game.
The set by Dyan Burlingame is spot on, and whatever feeling you have when entering a large contemporary church, you will have that same feeling here. The music (lots of upbeat, hallelujah, Jesus Be Praised stuff) as chosen by Karen Saxon along with Sound Design by John Shotwell with Lighting Design and Technical Direction by John Rickus and Lou Iannone are flawless.
I must admit, the play is a little “talky” and I was expecting a more “operatic” finale, but this play ended by making you think. (Damn, don’t you just hate that?)
UP NEXT: A one-night only fun/fundraiser – a musical in the “Buffalo Stories” series called “The Life of Russell Salvatore” Friday, June 8th, 2018 with hors d’oeuvres at 7:00 and the show at 8:00, at 500 Pearl Street.
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!