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Highland Church presents play with realism, passion

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The Highland Church's passion play, "Midnight Cry," presented Easter Sunday evening at the church on Highland Avenue, focused on the days leading up to the Crucifixion. The play was offered in the multiethnic church's huge sanctuary, which seemed large enough to hold a stadium's worth of people, including dozens of little girls in adorable, frothy Easter dresses.

Hymns were sung with such thunderous joy by the chorus that the floor of the enormous room was shaking and the writer thought, "They're going to wear people out even before the play starts." After the donation of tithes into great brass cuspidors, "Midnight Cry," staged by the church's drama ministry, began at around 7:15 p.m. The lights dimmed one section at a time, and a video came on.

A man disappears into thin air in the middle of a run-of-the-mill dinner with his wife. Another man comes home to find his own wife missing. When he turns on the TV he finds out on the evening news that people have been just vanishing all over the world, leaving chaos in their wake. ("So this is how they're going to broadcast the end of the world," the writer thought)

Actual footage of real plane crashes, including last summer's Concorde crash, were shown on the screen. Panicked, the man runs into the Highland Church on the video and then cleverly, the scene switches to live action when he runs up onto the stage, screaming.

The acting was a bit over-dramatic in the play's contemporary scenes. But soon enough the man and the people who join him in the sanctuary figure out that Jesus has come back and taken all his faithful with him, at the exact same moment and no matter what they were doing. (The writer thought, "It's one thing to snatch up a farmer in the middle of tilling his field but to snatch up a pilot in the middle of flying his plane or a driver on a freeway is a bit much. Couldn't He wait till the plane landed or the driver pulled over?") At any rate, Jesus has come, and left the unsaved behind to deal with a world overrun with catastrophes.

The man and the group of disconcerted rejects bond in the horrid realization that they're among the not-chosen.

The story then returns to the time of Jesus, and was told through vignettes, beginning with Jesus telling his disciples about the five wise and five foolish virgins, moving on to his talk with Nicodemus about being born again, then on through the agony in the garden, the arrest by realistically garbed and contemptuous centurions and, most dramatically, the crucifixion. The scene was so realistic that the writer and the audience were aghast. Also realistically depicted was the descent from the cross, the entombment, and finally, the resurrection, a scene full of billowing smoke and bright, white light. All the scenes were punctuated by passionate singing from the choir. Judging from the lighting, costumes, acting, directing, props, music and the New testament dialogue, Highland Church's Drama Ministry is an extraordinarily professional group.

After the breathtaking resurrection scene, the action returned to the poor unsaved folks, who decide to pray for salvation and of course find it in the nick of time.

After the play the actors and some members of the chorus stepped down from the stage to accept people who needed to be prayed for - well, some people who needed to be prayed for, as they came up to the front.

As the audience - congregation - was blessed and dismissed, the resounding strains of "No One Does It Like Jesus" from the choir followed them out into the chilly night.

Reach Qguide writer Arlene McKanic by e-mail at timesledgr@aol.com, or call 229-030, Ext. 139.

Posted 7:04 pm, October 10, 2011
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