‘The Three Christs of Manhattan’ at InterAct goes beyond comedy

The premise of Seth Rozin’s new play sounds like the set-up to a joke: “Three Christs walk into a psychiatrist’s office…” At the outset of the play, that’s exactly what it is. But Rozin, who is directing the world premiere of his new play, promises that “The Three Christs of Manhattan” takes some more serious turns as the evening progresses.

“It’s a comedy, first and foremost,” Rozin says. “But it evolves from feeling somewhat like an ‘SNL’ sketch into a more provocative comedy of ideas by the end.”

In “The Three Christs of Manhattan,” which opens tonight, a neurotic, atheist Jewish psychiatrist is visited by three patients, each of whom believe they’re Jesus Christ. The first is a traditional robe-and-sandal-clad Jesus preaching kindness and forgiveness. The second is a dreadlocked African-American activist Christ. The third Rozin prefers to keep secret, but is related more directly to modern attitudes.

The play will wrap up a full season of world premieres for InterAct Theatre Company. It also brings to a close an “unintentional trilogy” for Rozin, InterAct’s producing artistic director, who has penned three plays confronting faith and religion over the last 18 years. First came “Missing Link” in 2002, about parents dealing with the loss of a child in a plane crash; that was followed by another punchline-ready title, “Two Jews Walk Into a War…,” in 2009.

“All three plays deal with the relationship of faith to the circumstances that one finds oneself in,” Rozin says. “Most of my plays start with a question and I write the play to try to answer the question. I’m an atheist Jew myself, so I was interested in questions about what would give me faith in something that I didn’t believe in. If someone could actually do a miracle in front of me, do something that absolutely had to be supernatural, would I believe suddenly in that power?”

The production also marks a more permanent ending, in this case InterAct’s 18-year residency at the Adrienne Theatre. The company’s 2015/2016 season will open in the fall at its new home at The Drake. Embarking on this final show on the Adrienne stage, Rozin admits to mixed emotions. “We’re excited for our new home, and it’s hard not to be thinking about everything that’s going to be in some ways better,” he says. “But at the same time, we’ve spent 18 years of our lives here and there are some things that are feeling a little nostalgic. There’s something that tugs on you a little bit.”

‘The Three Christs of Manhattan’

Through June 21

The Adrienne

2030 Sansom St.

$22-$38, 215-568-8079


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