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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
It was The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, a nearly three-hour "trial" of the man who betrayed Jesus, that raised some interesting questions and provided some questionable answers. These came from 18 actors playing multiple parts, representing everyone from Mother Teresa to Sigmund Freud to Julius of Outer Mongolia.
Stephen Adly Guirgis, who wrote this discordant drama, set it in a subway station halfway between Heaven and Hell. Robert Rothbard, who directed it, describes it as "laugh out loud funny." If thatís what he was going for, it was obvious that the audience didnĎt get it. Not a lot of laughter in Purgatory.
On the plus side there were a number of well-written cameos rendered by exceptionally fine actors. Ronnie Marmo (who produced the play) as Satan, for example. And Thomas Evans as Caiaphas the Elder, head of the Sanhedrin, who brought a tortured rationale to his condemnation of Jesus. And, despite the fact that she had the vocal chords of Ethel Merman, Katy Jacoby did a fine, nuanced job as Fabiana Aziza Cunningham, the defense lawyer in Judasí trial.
Danny Nucci, serving as the fawning prosecuting attorney, Yusef El Fayoumy, brought a smugly righteous gotcha! factor to the proceedings. And Robert Mollohan, when he wasnít catatonic, played a scruffy Judas Iscariot with a frenzied fervor.
The courtroom, with the judge ensconced in a toll booth and his bailiff manning the adjacent magazine stand, was entered by a staircase from Uptown, a red-lit staircase to Downtown, and occasionally, from the U-train (#666) which dominated Stage Right. A very effective New York-like set designed by Danny Cistone, who also created the lighting and sound.
And what did all these "witnesses" in the trial of Judas Iscariot have to say? "If my son Is in Hell, then there is no Heaven!" said Judasí mother, Henrietta Iscariot. "In order to hear, one must listen," said Mother Teresa, and, addressing the defense attorney, "It must be hard to have only questions." "Hell is the absence of God," said Satan. And a belligerent Simon the Zealot complained that "emancipation was our birthright" and "the Messiah was supposed to throw the gentiles out!"
As Caiaphas alleged, Jesus was a "false Messiah, blasphemous and seditious" whose words were intended to lead to rebellion. He reminded the court that he was was appointed by Rome, and served 18 years "maintaining the 613 sacred laws of Judaism" which are "ours to obey or betray."Ē He claimed that Jesus had "crossed the line" by abandoning those religious ideals. " Iím not interested in your forgiveness," he asserted to the court, claiming that it is "the writers of the Gospels that need forgiving." Pontius Pilate (Jerard Jones) was berated by defense attorney Cunningham for presiding over 700 crucifixions in the decade (26-36) in which he served as Procurator.
There is much discussion of the nature of God, and of His intention. (In the end, there is much to ponder in this over-long play. Primarily, why didnít someone weed out some of the many superfluous and easily expendable characters? Did we really need so many apostles, or nuns, or soldiers, or saints? It all brings back memories of the grammar school productions you attended in which each third grader had to have at least one solo, and when you were finally allowed to leave the auditorium you discovered it was the middle of next week.
For a review of this play's Off-Broadway premiere three years ago go here.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide