Writers’ “Hesperia” Tackles the Conflict Between Sex and Faith

Sex and God are on everyone’s minds in Randall Colburn’s drama “Hesperia,” now playing at Writers’ Theatre.

Of course, most of the human race has been thinking a lot about sex and God for thousands of years, but those simmering tensions between lust and religious faith are at a boiling point in the small town of Hesperia.

A young woman calling herself Claudia (Kelly O’Sullivan) is trying to leave behind her past as a porn film actress, taking refuge in church fellowship and getting engaged to a squeaky-clean youth minister, who’s oddly nicknamed Trick (Erik Hellman). Talk about a change in scenery! After getting a wedding invitation, Claudia’s former lover and porno co-star Ian (Nathan Hosner) bursts into this idyllic, sanctimonious prairie setting (nicely evoked by set designer Chelsea Warren’s minimalist stage).

Things are bound to heat up, especially since most of the people in Hesperia don’t know what Claudia and Ian used to do for a living. A young church member, Daisy (Rebecca Buller), is magnetically drawn to Ian, who’s handsome, muscular, mysterious and rough around the edges, and some steamy make-out scenes follow. Another churchgoer, Aaron (Tyler Rose), seems almost as fascinated with Ian, viewing him as an unorthodox sort of role model.

Although there are moments of humor, Colburn and director Stuart Carden don’t go for cheap shots. Trick and his faithful flock are earnestly striving to be good people, even as they struggle with how to handle their sexual urges. The recovering porn stars (who were also apparently drug addicts) are yearning for something more like “normal” lives. By the end, each character seems to realize he or she doesn’t have all the answers.

A couple of scenes are slightly stilted, but the young cast is quite believable. One major character disappears before the final scene, leaving the sense that Colburn’s play isn’t entirely complete. Beyond that flaw, “Hesperia” vividly makes you feel the conflicted emotions these characters are feeling.

“Hesperia” continues through March 18 at Writers’ Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. For tickets and details, visit writerstheatre.org or call 847-242-6000.

Photo by Michael Brosilow