"Oh Crap!" Moments
I've said "Oh crap" out loud in a live, darkened theatre twice in my life. The first time, I said it in the middle of Act 3, Scene 5 of August: Osage County. The second time I said it was yesterday, in the middle of the new production, Irena's Vow. (Others exclaimed in shock in both moments, as well, so I was not being totally disruptive). They were the plot twists that separate the great from the mediocre in the craft of theatrical storytelling.
Too often, Christians tell stories that are at flat, two-dimensional, and appropriate for all audiences. We've removed the "oh crap" moments in return for material that earns positive entertainment ratings from Focus on the Family. And we've therefore removed ourselves from the frontlines of cultural influence.
I've got to give two thumbs way up for Irena's Vow. Based on the real-life story of Irena Gut Opdyke, the play tells the story of a Polish Catholic who daringly hid 13 Jews in the house of her employer, a prominent German officer in occupied Poland. It is the story of goodness that is told well.
Here are just a few things I loved about it.
First, there is a deeply religious leading character on Broadway. And deeply religious in the best of ways. That is amazing in and of itself.
Second, this is the story of real life; not the story of whitewashed situations. The characters are forced to make decisions that are not entirely black and white, and the audience is left to decide for themselves how God might judge their actions...or whether or not that's a judgment we should even be making.
Third, there is a strong pro-life message that comes from deep faith in God but doesn't sound preachy.
Fourth, the leading character believes with all her heart that it is possible to hear clearly the voice of God. And that we should act on what we hear.
After the curtain call, the audience was surprised to see the the real-life daughter of Irena Updike walk on the stage to take questions from audience members. For whatever its worth, she told more stories of redemption and hope that could not fit into the 90 minutes of a Broadway show. But those 90 minutes were a window that allowed people to catch a glimpse of the heart of God.
What are we doing with our 90 minutes every Sunday? What views of God are our windows showing? Where are the "oh crap" moments? Scripture is full of them and we must expose them. Once we do, we might actually become the salt and light in a broken culture that Jesus challenged us to be.