New Play Project has a new show, WWJD, about just what you think: Jesus. It’s a fun play that answers the question we’ve all asked ourselves: What would life be like if Jesus moved in with you and your roommates?
It started out with great hilarity, looking like a TV sitcom, setting up the situation that Jesus stopped by and did the dishes, then decided to stay and hang out. The first scene even ended with lights out on a dumb little joke, like a sitcom cutting to commercial. But the play took a more serious turn when it’s revealed that the female friend was beat by her drunk boyfriend, and the other characters start asking “Where was Jesus? Why didn’t he do anything to prevent this?”
That, to me, is one of the main themes of the show: not What Would Jesus Do, but Why Would Jesus Do? Each of the characters have to deal with that, as each believing Christian has to deal with that question. Where was Jesus when tragedies happened? Why did he allow Japan, Chile, or Haiti to suffer the terrible earthquakes and devastation? Or, as one character asks, what about Africa, the entire continent of Africa?
I was also very impressed with the fact that Jesus did not speak at all during the play. In a way, this puts the entire audience in the same situation as the character of Tom, who can neither see nor hear Jesus. All of his roommates, even random people on the streets can see and talk to Jesus, but Tom, who is a believer, cannot. It’s funny and thoughtful, Jesus nods, and talks with his hands, and the other characters translate, but in the end, Tom has no physical proof that Jesus is there. And as an audience, we can see Jesus, but we don’t hear him. We too, find ourselves asking if he is really there, as so many people, believers and non-believers alike, ask every day. Jesus cannot always be seen or heard, but his influence can be felt, in many little subtle ways, just like the Jesus in the play.
It was also very interesting, for a New Play Project show, that there was no reference to Mormonism at all, unless perhaps a slight jab at the Utah hair that one female character wears. None of the characters are Mormon, nor do they talk about any specifically Mormon themes or doctrines, which I thought odd for a play about Jesus being performed in Provo, Utah. It’s not a bad thing, in fact, I think that’s one of the strongest aspects of this play. It is universal in its Christianity, in its look at what Christianity means to us as individuals, and in its asking us to find Christ in our everyday lives. Tom says a couple of times throughout the play that he believes in Jesus, he just doesn’t believe that Jesus is hanging out in his living room. Or in other words, any one of us might say, ‘I believe in Jesus, I just don’t believe he has a place in my personal life.’
It was a wonderful show, just funny enough to keep you entertained and interested and just serious enough to give you something to think about and talk about as you left the theatre, which was only enhanced by New Play Project’s tradition of having a talk-back with the audience, cast and crew after each performance. It was a great opportunity to not only express my personal thoughts and feelings about the play, but to hear from others. This is definitely a play worth seeing, you should totally go, and bring all of your friends. You may just meet Jesus.