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Theater Review: “Church”

“Church” plays through April 20, 2019, at Diversionary’s Black Box, 4545 Park Boulevard in University Heights.
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Diversionary Theatre’s Black Box

Religion is a hot-button issue for many, myself included. I grew up in a fundamentalist church of the sort Rev. José (Salomon Maya) would approve.

So when Rev. Jose bellowed from the back of the room “You are a spiritual black hole!,” it was familiar, but I was still ready to bolt.

I heard a lot of that kind of talk back then, and you’ll hear it tonight from José and three female preachers (Laura Preble, Veronica Burgess and Andréa Agosto) in the course of this 75-minute event (“play” doesn’t seem quite the word.)

The occasion is Young Jean Lee’s “Church,” InnerMission Productions’ latest offering, directed by Kym Pappas and playing through April 20 at Diversionary Theatre’s Black Box.

The setup is just such a church service, where the reverends ask at the top for prayer requests from the audience, er, congregation. Prayers are offered for the requests made.

Ms. Lee is, at the very least, a provocative playwright who wants to confront, to challenge your beliefs or the rationale behind the life you lead. Do you, as José suggests, essentially sleep walk through your life and become part of the “blissful robotic machine-like state of life that is the highest state of happiness a human being can attain”?

Do you control your future or is José right that we are completely at the mercy of a cruel and senseless world without God?

Phew. That’s heavy-duty philosophizing for a Saturday night.

The three female reverends describe their various paths to God – drugs and abuse among them – interspersed by an occasional welcome musical interlude, accompanied by “Worship Leader” (i.e., guitarist) James M. McCullock. Preble’s voice is particularly lovely, but their trio sound is fine as well.

This is not the sort of theater you’re used to, but for the adventurous – or the religious – it makes for an interesting evening, leaving you to ponder this question: What if God is one of us?

The details

“Church” plays through April 20, 2019, at Diversionary’s Black Box, 4545 Park Boulevard in University Heights.

Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sunday at 4 pm; Monday, April 15 at 7:30 pm