September 9, 2014

Peter, Paul and John look down from the stained-glass windows onto 3 Christs, a play staged in the sanctuary of Judson Memorial Church. And boy, have these saints got some preaching to do. Peculiar Works, a company that stages site-specific productions throughout Greenwich Village, based this piece on an infamous case study in social psychology. In a state hospital in Ypsilanti, Mich., in 1959, Dr. Milton Rokeach brought together three paranoid schizophrenics, each claiming to be Jesus Christ. Rokeach (Christopher Hurt) hoped that mutual confrontation might lessen their obsessions. Certainly it would provide useful data about psychotic habits of mind and the limits of identity. “My main purpose is scientific,” he insists in the play’s opening scene. A nurse (Catherine Porter) asks, “An experiment?” He replies, “An investigation.” Don’t be too sure. The script, adapted by S. M. Dale and Barry Rowell from Rokeach’s published study, condenses this two-year trial into 100 minutes. Though Rokeach is intent on aiding the men, he sometimes seems more interested in what information a new factor (a placebo, a spot of transvestitism) will yield. Nothing improves the men’s condition.