‘The Christians’ premieres this week
The play, by award-winning playwright Lucas Hnath, will be performed at Sudler Hall.
Maddy Corson, Contributing Photographer
“The Christians” — a show exploring the nature of religion and beliefs — premiered today at Sudler Hall.
Set amid the schism of a megachurch, “The Christians” tells the story of Pastor Paul as he tries to keep his church, family and spirituality from falling apart. After giving a controversial sermon, in which Pastor Paul rejects the idea of hell, he is forced to deal with the subsequent fallout. This drama, directed by Tomás Fuchs-Lynch ’26, has been in the works since October 2023.
“It’s not a satisfying play,” said Fuchs-Lynch. “It doesn’t make it very clear who is who was right and who was wrong … But, I think what’s really exciting with this play is that it gives so much depth to each of its characters.”
All the characters in the play orbit around Pastor Paul — played by Calum Baker ’25 — and have unique relationships with him. From the devoted wife to a single mother, each character’s relationship with the Pastor changes and crumbles throughout the show.
Baker delivers an enrapturing performance as Pastor Paul, which includes an emotional opening sermon. He invites the members of the congregation to question their long-held beliefs of heaven and hell, breaking down a lifetime’s-worth of spirituality in a mere thirty minutes.
Church faculty on stage display their unease at the pastor’s words, their facial expressions changing from light and cheery to contemplative and frustrated by the end of the speech.
What ensues is a series of conversations between Pastor Paul and various people in his life. There are never more than two people acting in a scene throughout the rest of the show, which creates the feeling that the audience is looking in on the Pastor’s life.
Scene tones range from angry to intimate, from evangelical to clinical and from passionate to hopeless.
During the rehearsal process, the two-person scenes presented a challenge to the cast, according to several members interviewed by the News.
“When you have the ability to know what scenes are coming before you then you can build a certain tension that comes from each of the scenes,” said Kevin Chabla Piruch ’25 who plays Associate Pastor Josh — who sparks the church schism. “I definitely felt that when we started doing run-throughs, and I changed what I had to do to match the tone that’s building throughout the show.”
While Baker is on stage for the entire two-hour show, other actors come and go.
Director Fuchs-Lynch explained that he kept rehearsals limited to only scene members so that the time of the actors would not be wasted. In fact, much of his directorial process centers around trusting the actors’ interpretations of scenes and characters.
“I spent a ton of time with this play,” said Fuchs-Lynch. “But there’ll be times in rehearsal [when] someone will give the line a certain way or bring something up that I hadn’t even thought of and then that makes its way into the show … That to me is a really exciting aspect of directing and theater in general.”
Actors contribute greatly to the immersive aspect of the show. Pastor Paul and his wife come out into the “congregation” at the beginning of the “service” to greet audience members, shaking hands and giving out blessings. A live chorus opens the show with a hymn, inviting the congregation to sing along with them. Actors all speak on microphones, addressing the audience and scene partners as though they were delivering a sermon.
The use of Sudler Hall as the “theater” immerses the audience in the show. The environment itself resembles a church with arched wooden ceilings and hanging lamps with intricate metalwork. Large windows overlook Cross Campus, adding a grounding connection to the natural world that makes the audience feel as if they are in a church service.
When actors leave the stage, they are doing more than exiting a scene. They are abandoning a belief system, they are storming out of the church and they are leaving Paul’s life.
“I’d like to see what the audience thinks without having any expectations for them,” said Abigail Murphy ’27 — who plays Paul’s wife Elizabeth — while the director wants “audiences to be thinking about things that they hadn’t been thinking about when they stepped into the theater.”
Ambiguity and questioning are essential to this play. While there might be no strict sense of “right” and “wrong” or “heaven” or “hell,” the play invites audiences to question the strength of their beliefs — spiritual or otherwise.
“The Christians” will be playing Feb. 1-3 in Sudler Hall in William Harkness Hall.
Correction, Feb. 12: A previous version of this article misnamed Lucas Hnath; it has since been amended.