When he read Lucas Hnath's "The Christians," Scott Behrend, executive director of Road Less Traveled Productions, knew his company needed to tackle the play. "What drew me to this play was, of course, the central argument, which is, Is there a hell?" With a cast of Dave Hayes, Lisa Vitrano, Aaron Moss, Steve Jakiel and Victoria Perez, "The Christians" runs through May 20.
"What he (Lucas Hnath) does very specifically, I think, in this particular play is provide all the different arguments to either side and a lot of different viewpoints to that," said Behrend, who is also directing the production.
"I thought this is a play we have to do because of the topic, because of the unique presentational style of it. I just thought it would be something our audience would jibe with."
The stage at Road Less Traveled is transformed into a church lectern to provide the set. Providing the tension is the revelation from the show's main character, Pastor Paul, who informs his congregation there is no hell.
"It's about people's belief systems and why it is we believe what we believe, and how we deal with having our own belief systems challenged or disrupted," said Vitrano, a veteran member of the Road Less Traveled Ensemble. Her part as the the pastor's wife offered its own struggles.
"The poetic nature of it I found interesting but it was a subject matter and a character that I couldn't really relate to, initially," Vitrano acknowledged. She considered reaching out to wives of area pastors before finding her way.
"But what I came to realize is that when I tend to resist wanting to play a role it is often going to be a really good challenge for me."
For Dave Hayes, his connection to his role as Pastor Paul came easily.
"I loved it as soon as I read it. It does read to me like a poem and the language is lyrical and immediately something I could latch onto," Hayes said.
"He (Pastor Paul) clearly wears his beliefs on his sleeve. I do think he's genuine. I think he's sincere. And he's trying to live this life and bring this message to people."
In early performances the audience, the principals say, has been drawn into the great debate. According to Hayes, theater goers are relating to the characters, each of whom offer individual perspectives on the central question. Some, Hayes says, "will begin to tell me about their own faith journey."