The play will open in preview on Thursday, Feb. 15, and runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 15, 16 and 17, and again Feb. 22, 23 and 24, with 2 p.m. matinees on the two Saturdays. Evening performances will be at 7:30 p.m.

“Faith” is the 2018 theme at Bluff City Theater in Hannibal, where five plays are scheduled between Feb. 15 and Aug. 4.

The season opener, “The Sunset Limited,” begins Thursday, Feb. 15, with eight performances scheduled until Feb. 24. It is a two-person debate about the existence of God, with John Contini representing an atheist and Erick Lindsey an evangelistic Christian.

Bluff City Theater Executive Director Joe Anderson explained Contini plays White, a university professor and atheist “who has lost faith in mankind and decides to end his life by jumping in front of a train.”

Contini said the play’s title represents a New York subway train, “that my character wants to throw himself in front of. It begins after it happened.”

Lindsey describes the scene, “I’m his angel sent by God himself. You jumped, and I caught you.”

Anderson noted that Black (Lindsey) is a former convict who has experienced the worst life has to offer but became an evangelical Christian as a consequence of his suffering and now devotes his life to helping others in need. Having stopped White from ending his life, Black feels responsible for him and brings him home to his tenement in Harlem.

Lindsey said, “I was lucky enough to have a character that shares the same faith as me.”

Contini said he tries to tell Black why he is an atheist. The audience decides for themselves who won the argument, Contini added, however, “the way Alex (Freeman) is directing is leaning to the positive side.”

Play dates announced

The play will open in preview on Thursday, Feb. 15, and runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 15, 16 and 17, and again Feb. 22, 23 and 24, with 2 p.m. matinees on the two Saturdays. Evening performances will be at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets may be purchased as part of a 2018 Season Subscription (all five shows for $99), a four-ticket Flex Pass (any four tickets to any combination of shows for $95) or individually ($26 adults, or $15 for ages 14 and under). Purchase online at www.eventshannibal.com or call the box office at 573-719-3226.

Additional shows at Bluff City this season are “Becoming Dr. Ruth,” “My Name is Asher Lev,” “Trees Die Standing Tall” and “The Cotton Patch Gospel.”

“The Sunset Limited” was written by Cormac McCarthy, who is known for his “No Country For Old Men,” “All the Pretty Horses” and “The Road.”

Freeman is the Artistic Director of Ozark Actors Theater in Rolla. He said the current play is about “the grappling about faith in God and whether or not faith is central to a happy life.”

Lindsey, a native of Ironton who currently acts in the St. Louis area, is making his Hannibal debut. Now age 25, he began acting as a high school sophomore, he said, and “caught the acting bug.”

Lindsey encourages others to try acting, because “I believe acting in theater gets you out of your comfort zone. It is like public speaking and will build a bond with people that you haven’t met before.”

Freeman agreed, adding that, “everyone should learn about theater, because is creates empathy. The skills learned are applicable across all fields.”

Contini finds playing an atheist challenging

Contini has previously acted in Hannibal. He said when Anderson asked him to come to Hannibal for this season-opener, he was given the choice of acting or directing. He chose acting, which “I enjoy a little bit more.”

He noted his role as an atheist is a challenge, because “you have to identify with a character, and this man was difficult.”

Contini formerly taught theater in St. Louis high schools and colleges. He quit teaching almost 20 years ago, “because I wanted to do this full-time.

“I’m a big promoter of education in theater, because it teaches life lessons,” he continued. “I know of a handful (of his students) who have gone on (to become professionals).”

He once did a show called “The Dresser” with a former student from his first year of teaching.

An award winner, Contini said his favorite is the St. Louis Theater Circle Award for “Death of a Salesman.” “My son, Jason, played my son, and he won best supporting actor.”

He especially enjoys acting with his son and daughter-in-law, Taylor. All three were in the Bluff City productions of “Oliver” and “The Heiress.” He also was in “The Boys of Autumn” last summer in Hannibal, which his son directed. “We’ve written some movies, and we get along very well.”

Reach reporter Bev Darr at bev.darr@courierpost.com.