What's it about?
An unexpected couple meets after a frat party at a Christian College. Donna, a spunky Christian girl who came from "trailer trash," is no stranger to Chris’s religiously ambiguous nature. Donna finds that her faith gives her a sense of purpose. Chris, on the other hand, is an art student who initially questions the existence of a higher power. The odd union shows promise from the first kiss they share against Donna’s dorm room door. The story plays out in flashbacks and jumps to the 20 year+ married Donna and Chris. As they begin their life together, Donna gives birth to their first son - and slowly after their initial ease to talk to one another fades as they raise their autistic child.
What did I experience?
Two words that sum up Believers? Morbidly beautiful.
At first glance, the set seemed like a frugal mans' take on an Ikea living room area but the humble space fit the tragic unfolding of Chris and Donna's life. As soon as Donna and Chris are introduced, it's clear they're radically different. Donna, a pleasantly spunky Christian girl (the rare kind that don't annoy me) sneaks Chris into her dorm after they meet at a party on campus. I quickly took a liking to young Donna - not only was the good girl already "sinning" a minute into the show, but she had a fiery flare to her.
Religious people I have had the pleasure of speaking to waste most of the time trying to explain the "path that the lord has chosen for (me)" - as if the big guy would tell them out of everyone. Please. Donna was different, in simple terms she embodied faith, or the experience of faith. From the first kiss, to the first touch that she and Chris share in her dorm room, it's clear that they are two perfectly (mis)matched pieces. They have a beautiful way of never hesitating to tell each other off, but the trust they share from the start is undeniable. Religion was her saving grace from her "trailer trash" life (her words, not mine). Chris takes that in with a slightly dark humor (in true art student form) that made me smile alongside the rest of the 700 Club members in the room.
The story is told in alternating scenes between the mid 90's, at the core of their romance, and twenty some years later. The older Donna and Chris are introduced as Chris rushes into the hospital room minutes after Donna has delivered their first son - which she claims to have been pain free. I am pretty sure my mum along with a solid 95% of mothers would beg to differ. It appears Chris and Donna's life together seems to have grown well in those 20 years - the younger couple had been on a budget-friendly diet of spaghetti as Chris was consumed with winning an art competition and Donna happily supported him with a crappy counseling job.
Chris had spent a small fortune on a wooden frame that he believed would bring focus to his art piece, but Donna suggested that leaving the art bare made it 'never-ending'. This entire argument was reminiscent of the way they perceived faith. For Donna, faith seemed to serve as a reminder that someone was looking out for her - present enough to save her from a near rape. For Chris, he approached faith with caution - being a deep/philosophical art student or just a regular human who questions why bad things happen to good people. I found Chris's morbid sense of humor to relate a lot to the way I approach religion (with great caution, given that my grandmother believes me to be the Anti-Christ). However, when he told Donna that he prayed, I saw the impact that faith has once someone seeks it.
Twenty some years later when they start a family, they face tough news as parents. As soon as Chris mentioned the three doctors coming to speak to them... blah blah, I quickly called - COP OUT! (not to degrade the severity of this situation). But at this point, I started writing out a new ending in my head. I'm not sure how I felt that the story essentially said that everything would be fine in the end - the kid would get treatment, they would save their marriage, and be the best parents to their child - all because of God.
But that wasn't the end of the play, and soon it all made sense for me. When facing the severe responsibility of caring for a child, it is easy to forget that parents are separate beings - separate emotions, separate entities, with separate choice. I tossed my ending out, clearly Ken Jaworowski had something else in mind. None-the-less, his ending gave me a most pleasant surprise, especially for a non-believer. It made the whole story feel real, and even provoked my personal journey with faith.