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EMAV Review: "Hallelujah," for The Christians at Cockroach Theatre Co.

★★★☆☆ - Satisfying

Twenty years ago, Pastor Paul's church was nothing more than a modest storefront. As his congregation grew, they eventually moved into a gymnasium. Now he presides over a congregation of thousands, in a building large enough to include classrooms for Sunday School, a coffee shop in the lobby, and a baptismal font as big as a swimming pool.

All “megachurch” services share one thing in common: They are entertaining. Most use varying degrees of video, contemporary music and drama in their services. One megachurch stated that its goal is to have its services “feel like a concert” -- to whip people into an emotional frenzy. Music is certainly an effective device for accomplishing this goal.

This is certainly true as the audience arrives at Art Square Theatre in the heart of downtown's 18b Arts District. Cockroach Theatre has transformed the intimate performance space into the megachurch that serves as the setting for Lucas Hnath’s soul-searching drama, The Christians. Today’s services coincide with a day of celebration -- the debt for the new building has finally been paid off after 10 years.

The musical litergy includes Leonard Cohen’s popular song, "Hallelujah," which reinforces that word of praise in the Christian tradition – a synonym for "Praise the Lord," rather than a prompting to action.