Extreme religious faith, observed from the outside, can seem ridiculous or even disgusting, like a feast seen without hunger or hard-core porn without lust. For the first five minutes of Samuel D. Hunter’s engrossing and suspenseful The Harvest, five young evangelists in a shoddy Idaho church basement try to lose themselves in ecstasies of Christian belief: chanting in tongues, beating their breasts, throwing themselves on the carpeted ground. “The point is not to think,” explains the dim Marcus (Christopher Sears) to his more skeptical wife, Denise (a wonderfully deadpan Madeleine Martin). Everyone has a lot not to think about.
Like much of Hunter's work, The Harvest takes place in a jammed intersection of religion, family, sexuality and poverty, which the playwright maps out in evocative detail. Mourning the recent death of his alcoholic father, Josh (a limpid Peter Mark Kendall) plans to spend the rest of his life as a missionary in the Middle East—unless his estranged sister (Leah Karpel) or all-too-close best friend, Tom (the heartrending Gideon Glick), can sway him otherwise. Masterfully directed by Davis McCallum, the excellent cast—which includes Scott Jaeck and a wittily smarmy Zoë Winters—helps get us inside the complex worlds of these characters’ devotions, as they grasp in the fearful dark for revelation.
Claire Tow Theater (Off Broadway). By Samuel D. Hunter. Directed by Davis McCallum. With Peter Mark Kendall, Gideon Glick, Zoë Winters. Running time: 1hr 45mins. No intermission. Through Nov 20. Click here for full ticket and venue information.
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