Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

The Christians
San Francisco Playhouse
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Fun Home and Native Son

(Anthony Fusco and Cast
Photo by Jessica Palopoli
San Francisco Playhouse is presenting a production of Lucas Hnath's thought-provoking The Christians with a superb cast of five actors and glorious singing by a 16-member chorus. As you enter the theatre you can see the stage has been transformed with Bill English's set of a luxurious megachurch with stained glass windows, a lot of polished wood, and recessed lighting. What follows is a mind-blowing and thoughtful 90-minute drama.

After the chorus gives us a rousing version of "Hold to God's Unchanging Hand," mild, down-home Pastor Paul (Anthony Fusco) steps up to the podium to deliver his sermon. He tells how this evangelical church started with a small congregation and grew into a large zealous church. He tells the flock that all the debts are paid off, and then delivers a whopper of a surprise. The flock is shocked, and even Associate Pastor Joshua (Lance Gardner) is in shock. Church Elder Jay (Warren David Keith), congregant Jenny (Millie Brooks), and Paul's wife Elizabeth (Stephanie Prentice) do not know what to make of this split in church philosophy. That does not sit well with the Associate Pastor Joshua, a man who argues that you cannot change the doctrine without creating a schism in the church. They argue over ambiguous words of New Testament in a battle that Pastor Paul wins.

Elder Jay weighs in to argue that the church elders do not want a change in dogma and even sincere Jenny does not know what to do with this fact. Elizabeth, who teaches Sunday school to the kids of the congregation, can't decide whether or not to support her husband. All this is played out on the set of the church; even arguments are spoken mostly into microphones. It's a Pat Robinson show gone horribly wrong.

Lucas Hnath writes about things that have caused problems for Christian thinkers for generations. The play is about the time-old inconsistency of an all-loving God also condemning a good block of his people to internal suffering. It got me thinking.

Bill English has cast awesome actors to play the characters. Anthony Fusco is outstanding in the role of Pastor Paul. He is pleasantly magnetic in the role. Distinguished Lance Gardner is pitch perfect in the role of Joshua, while Millie Brooks gives a compelling performance as the congregant Jenny. Warren David Keith is splendid in the role of Jay, while Stephanie Prentice as Paul's wife has one big scene at the end of the play that is fantastic.

The Christians plays through March 11, 2017, at the San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post Street, San Francisco, 2nd floor of the Kensington Park Hotel. For tickets call 415-677-9596 or visit Coming up next is Michael Frayn's Noises Off opening March 21 and running through May 13.