Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: JANUARY 8, 2010
It’s quite an assemblage. Satan is there. And Sigmund Freud. Mother Teresa and St. Monica, namesake of the L.A. freeway and pier. And of course, the usual suspects: Pontius Pilate, Caiphas , Mary Magdalene and a few of the ragtag Disciples. Jesus even puts in an appearance. The occasion? They’re all giving testimony at the trial of history’s most infamous Beastie Boy of Betrayal.
“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” is set in Purgatory, but it also travels the Mean Streets of New York. Acclaimed playwright Steven Adly Guirgis is a devoted denizen of Gotham , and he gives his saints and sinners a decidedly downtown spin.
His idea-drunk 2005 effort is rich with philosophy, controversy, humor and rough language. Which makes it a very good match for Triad Productions, the small, fledgling company whose aim is to convince young people that theater is relevant to their lives. Judging from the sellout crowd on opening night, they’re achieving their goal. In spades. Raucous laughter was punctuated by moments of rapt silence.
We’re all the jury at this tribunal, presided over by a curmudgeonly judge who’s been impatiently waiting for his own ticket to Paradise since he committed some heinous acts and then hanged himself during the Civil War, 146 years ago. Hanging was the endpoint for Judas, too, who, having sold out his master for thirty silver pieces, is now catatonic with grief and remorse. Not even Jesus can reach him any more. But the trial goes on, with a highly colorful cast of characters, each demonstrating that no one is without guilt or fault or self-recrimination. Even Mother Teresa wasn’t flawless. The question is Forgiveness. Can we get it from others? Can we give it to ourselves?
The prosecutor is a slimy womanizer; the defense attorney is a sexy female with an axe to grind. Satan sees right through them, and maybe he even tries to help them avoid a horrible fate. But like most of us, they’re wallowing in their own river of reproach. There are takes on Judas you may have heard, and some you may never have considered.
Under the direction of Steve Schmitz, a cast of 15 portrays some two dozen disparate folks, past and present, factual and fictional. The ensemble ranges from novice to veteran, and the differences show – in the rate, clarity and projection of lines, and the etching of character. Those playing Jesus, Judas, Satan and the defense attorney are riveting. The lighting is delectable. And despite the dramatic inconsistencies, the ultimate effect is compelling, with an intelligence and hip urbanity that will appeal to any age. Most significant, though, the concepts and counter-arguments will keep you talking and thinking long into the night.
“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” runs through January 30 at the 10th Avenue Theatre downtown.
©2010 PAT LAUNER