Religion colors the central romance of “In His Hands” from the very beginning. The day Chris (Josh Adams) and Daniel (Michael J. Mainwaring) meet, Chris tells Daniel he doesn’t go by Christian, seeing as how he isn’t much of a Christian himself.
The next hour and a half of the Mosaic Theater Company’s play, written by Benjamin Benne and directed by José Carrasquillo, delves into the nuances of queer religiosity with humor and heart. The rom-com is showing until July 17.
Daniel, an office manager and aspiring pastor, is flirtatious and peppy. Chris, an engineer, takes a little longer to come out of his shell. The two hit it off when Chris applies for a job at the Seattle start-up where Daniel works.
“In His Hands” takes their relationship from the playful to the serious. Mario Kart at Chris’ place serves as a lovely and surprising vehicle for the two of them. Bands of light around the stage flash rainbow to emulate the game while Chris and Daniel chat about competition, relationships, oral sex and faith.
Throughout the play, details like their bare feet lend an air of intimacy to their relationship. In some of the show’s most lyrical scenes, the two look like they’re bathed in divine light. At times they almost dance on stage, the physicality of their connection on full display.
With almost no props on scenic director Tony Cisek’s pure black set, all the attention falls on the play’s four actors — and primarily on Mainwaring and Adams, who bring life to Benne’s clever, fast-paced dialogue. The chemistry they create between their characters is unmistakable. So is the tension.
When Daniel brings up his commitment to Christianity, Chris draws back. The audience sees two sinister figures — a conversion therapist (Joe Mallon) and Chris’ father (Sasha Olinick) — loom in Chris’ mind, hinting at a past religious trauma.
“In His Hands” places Daniel and Chris’ experiences with religion on opposite ends of a spectrum. Daniel wants to be a pastor; Chris left the church. Daniel wants to fight for an openly sex-positive, queer affirming Christianity; Chris didn’t know that was possible.
But even with the opposition in their faith lives, Daniel and Chris come off as individuals, not archetypes. Religion permeates both characters’ lives and pasts without defining their relationship. That’s critical to making “In His Hands” feel like an exploration rather than a polemic about how queer people should approach religion.
Still, it’s not an easy piece of theatre. Anyone with their own complicated relationship to religion or parental homophobia should consider whether they’re ready to watch two people work through those issues on stage. “In His Hands” sets up a deeply relatable — and at times painful — story about what it means to belong in a religious setting as a queer person.
Too often, narratives around queerness and religion insist the two can’t coexist. By rejecting that black-and-white concept, “In His Hands” embraces the pains and promise of the gray.
“In His Hands” runs through July 17 at the Mosaic Theater Company. Tickets range from $20-$68 and can be purchased here.