Four boys, cast out from their church and way of life, struggling to meet their basic needs and abandoned in the desert – these are the “lost boys” of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, depicted in North Hennepin Community College’s production of “Exit 27,” directed by Mike Ricci and written by playwright Aleks Merilo.
Performances run Nov. 30 through Dec. 4.
The play focuses on the lives of four boys who have been exiled from the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints for what Ricci said are minor sins.
“Indoctrinated to mistrust anyone outside the church, and forbidden to return home, they carve out a meager existence, many committing petty crimes or getting hooked on drugs as they face each day, trapped in a dead end life,” reads the press release.
Ricci said Merilo wrote the play after seeing many such boys while working in Utah. “They’re living in a limbo,” Ricci said, “trying to eek out some kind of basic existence, but they’ve not been taught any kind of survival training. The boys have become a math problem, because the church is polygamist.”
Because each boy has to marry three girls to enter heaven, there are too many boys in the church to sustain the practice, Ricci said. As a result, boys who might be seen as troublemakers and who break, in some cases, otherwise minor rules are exiled, Ricci said.
“The fact that a lot of this goes unnoticed by the general public is disturbing,” Ricci said.
The cast and Ricci said they hope their performance will bring awareness to the situation.
“This was a very good show to get out there, because it is reflecting a real issue,” said Brandon Hawfitch, an actor in the play.
The play also addresses the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints doctrine and its leader, Warren Jeffs, who is currently serving life in prison, plus 20 years after being convicted of two counts of sexual assault in 2011. In 2007, Jeffs was found guilty of two counts of rape as an accomplice, but that conviction was later overturned by the Utah Supreme Court.
“Jeffs ruled the church with an iron hand, and instituted many requirements and regulations that straddled the fine line between church doctrine and law,” the press release read. “For many years, he maintained control of church members by intimidation, constant indoctrination and manipulation, isolation from the rest of the world, and abuse, both emotional and sexual.”
“Many of the victims suffer from PTSD, and the effects of this religious extremism can be looked upon as a cautionary tale of our times, giving a window into how this can happen in a free and open society that values religious freedom,” read the press release.
The play is recommended for mature audiences only. Mathilda Elrod, who plays an outsider rather than a former Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints member in the production, said the intensity of one particular scene caused her to find something new in herself. “I’ve had to go places with myself that I’ve never had to explore before,” she said.
Merilo will attend the production, and will discuss the issues presented in the play with the audience.
Performances will be held in the new Black Box theatre in the Campus Center. Ricci said he picked this particular venue because its smaller size adds an element of intimacy to the production that works well with the script.
Performances of “Exit 27” open 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, with shows following at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1-3, and a final closing show at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4.
North Hennepin Community College is located at 7411 85th Ave. Brooklyn Park. The Black Box theater is on the upper level of the Campus Center.
Tickets can be purchased at the door, or are available online at nhcc.edu/theatre.