Two hours, a handful of flashbacks and countless witnesses accounts into The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Satan utters the words no recent graduate wants to hear: “There comes a time when the world stops rewarding potential.” He’s a wise man, that Satan.
Unfortunately, the same goes for a play. And, in this instance, that moment comes somewhere between Pontius Pilate (Lawrence Werber) describing his tattooed ball sack and shouting “Hail Caesar!,” a monologue that lasts a good ten minutes.
The main problem, I suppose, is this play’s length: three hours in total. Stephen Adly Guirgis’s writing is, at times, sloppy. But a faster pace, fewer dropped lines and injecting humour into some more of the play’s drier monologues would have remedied that.
The play is, in essence, a courtroom drama played out in “downtown Purgatory”, which resembles New York’s meanest neighbourhoods and “don’t smell good.” It begins with a truly touching speech from Judas’s mother (Maggie Robson) who is mourning the death of her son. She suggests that God cannot exist, since no omnibenevolent force would condemn one of his people to such abject suffering.
And so the play continues: characters as diverse as Satan (Jeremiah O’Connor), Sigmund Freud (Christopher Wolert) and Mother Teresa (Kathy Trevalyn) give evidence in Judas’s trial, desperately searching for justice in a world where it’s easy to lose faith. But fear not: heavy theological and psychological arguments are supplemented with puerile jokes, which lighten the mood.
The audience is seated along three walls of the church, with the only thing distinguishing them from prosecutor Yusef El-Fayoumy (Michael Aguilo) and defendant Fabiana Aziza Cunningham (Laurence Bouvard) being the over sized seats that all cast members occupy. The old church’s acoustics lend themselves to a court room drama perfectly, even if the stone walls mean you’ll lose felling in your extremities within 25 seconds.
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is, what someone who enjoys spouting clichés would call ‘a mixed bag’. While some of the actors stumbled over a few too many lines, meaning that valuable laughs were lost, excellent scenes between Judas Iscariot (Priyank Morjaria) and Satan made up for it. Defendant Yusef El-Fayoumy also had moments of brilliance (I am, of course, referring to the Judas-2Pac comparison), delivering every line with boundless enthusiasm. But then there was Mother Theresa’s confusingly flirty Eurovision-style accent, which seemed out of place and frankly distracting. See, a mixed bag.
For the sake of thought-provoking dialogue, a beautiful setting and a few excellent scenes, it’s worth going along to. But, for God’s sake, wear your coat.