Regional premiere of ‘Christians’ at Dayton Theatre Guild

Lucas Hnath’s contemporary drama “The Christians,” a thought-provoking look at faith, spirituality, ministry, doctrine, debate, and growth, continues its regional premiere at the Dayton Theatre Guild through Sunday, Dec. 3.

This intriguing and insightful play concerns Pastor Paul, who shocks his congregation by revealing a newfound belief. His epiphany threatens to split the church, particularly his relationship with his associate pastor. How the church copes with Pastor Paul’s stance fuels the play’s engrossing and relevant themes.

“This play offers a really sensitive and moving journey inside one person’s journey to why they believe what they believe, and what happens to communities when beliefs change,” said director Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp, a dynamic Lady Utterword in the Guild’s 2015 production of “Heartbreak House.” “What happens in the play is very personal to everyone involved. Relationships are damaged, bonds of trust are broken, love between church family and actual family is deeply challenged. It is a human story and those always make for the most compelling plays to see and experience.”

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Sparrow-Knapp also says the play isn’t political. She found it very respectful to her own experience growing up as a member of an evangelical church in Springfield.

“People of faith who have read the script (mentioned) how it really captures the inner workings and dynamics of large churches and I agree wholeheartedly,” she said. “The staff and congregation are very much families within church communities in every sense of the word. They possess deep love for each other, but they also fight and disagree and have to work through conflicts and change, good times and bad, just like any other family. For those who share the faith professed in ‘The Christians,’ the play is a really deep and poetic look at these relationships.”

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“Who or what is God is a strong underlying theme of the play,” added Richard Young, a retired Catholic priest who portrays Pastor Paul and has performed with numerous troupes over the years, including the Guild and Dayton Playhouse. “People are challenged in Pastor Paul’s church to think beyond the male, kingly, images they were so used to. In a rare moment of mysticism in the play, Pastor Paul says, ‘I want a God who is not as small-minded as I am.’

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“Another strong theme concerns the idea of being faithful to your convictions and still trusting that doing so will not get you condemned. The world may condemn, but the God revealed in Christ does not. What is required for Pastor Paul’s people, struggling to be true to their faith, is a ‘leap of faith.’ It is about letting go of old formulae and old ways of interpreting the stories of our tradition. Can they do that and still think of themselves as Christians?”

The cast also features Jill Evans as Paul’s wife Elizabeth, Thor Sage as associate pastor Joshua, Steve Strawser as church elder Jay, and Jackie Anderson as congregant Jennifer. Julia Hoff will provide musical selections.

“The Christians,” a finalist at the 2014 Humana Festival, opened off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 2015. In 2016, it was chosen as the eighth most-produced new play by American Theatre magazine. Hnath, who grew up in an Assemblies of God church in Orlando, Florida and based some elements of the play on his own experience, received his first Tony Award nomination last season for his brilliant dramedy “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

“God is very much a part of this play, both in Hnath’s words and in the characters he creates,” Sparrow-Knapp reminded. “In the end, it’s really about that for all of us and our understanding of our own spirituality. How do the things we believe deepen our relationship between us and the divine?”


What: "The Christians"

Where: Dayton Theatre Guild, 430 Wayne Ave., Dayton

When: Through Dec. 3; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 5 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m.

Cost: $20 for adults; $18 for seniors; $13 for students

Tickets/more info: Call (937) 278-5993 or visit

FYI: The play is performed in 90 minutes without intermission.

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