October 24, 2016

Context is not everything when it comes to our experience of theater, but it’s not nothing, either. “The Harvest,” a new play by Samuel D. Hunter about a group of young evangelical missionaries in Idaho, has a serious context problem. These idealistic young Christians, all in their 20s, are heading off to save souls in a place referred to only as “the Middle East.” Where, exactly? While the territory is considered “dangerous” — Arabic is spoken, there are mountains, and the people are “suffering” — no country is ever specified. For me this became a nagging, ultimately off-putting problem. For many years, the troubles roiling very different countries in the Middle East have been making headlines, and while I can understand that Mr. Hunter wants to keep the focus on the interpersonal relationships among his American characters, I began to find the lack of specific discussion of the region faintly exasperating. (The time of the play is not mentioned, but it looks and feels very much like the here and now.)