The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
Also see Sharon's review of Harps and Angels
There's intelligence in this play, and humor. We've got someone trying to get through to Judas with a string of jokes ("Got change for 30 pieces of silver?"); Satan testifying that he did not, in fact, make Judas do it; Sigmund Freud testifying that Judas had to be insane; and a Saint Peter who cares more about fishing. The bulk of the dialogue is modernthink Jesus Christ Superstar kicked up another 30 years. Although many Biblical characters appear here, they all speak like regular guys, sometimes a bit heavy on the urban slang. Indeed, some of the actors in the current production just come off as trying too hard. When the street dialogue sounds the slightest bit less than natural (Lowam Eyasu is an example of someone who nails it), the whole play starts to feel like an attempt to be clever.
The real problem with the production is the uneven cast. Nick Mills gets laughs as the toadying prosecutor. His defense counterpart, Jessica Culaciati, is solid when she's being properly lawyerly. But when (witness) Satan dangerously turns on her, her reactions aren't quite convincing. Levi Sochet does a good job playing both sides of Satanthe superficially urbane charmer and the uncontrollable evil force; and several other actors pull off good monologues (particularly Aaron DuPree as the foreman of the jury) but others (including Michelle Mania as Judas's mother) lack realism and risk throwing you out of the world of the play.
The production is an ambitious onethe press release calls it the "Downtown Los Angeles premiere," and it is housed in a performance space in the Alexandria, an old hotel now turned into low-income "micro-loft" apartments. There's something appropriate about bringing a play like this to a setting such as this one, and it perfectly fits with Urban Theatre Movement's goal of creating "accessible art and life changing experiences through innovative theatre that serves and mirrors our rich and diverse inner-city communities." The play treats its audience with respect, delving into the complexities of Judas's betrayal while keeping an accessible tone. It just needs a stronger production.
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot runs at Company of Angels at the Alexandria in downtown Los Angeles through December 12, 2010. For tickets and information, see www.urbantheatremovement.com.
Urban Theatre Movement, in association with Company of Angels, presents The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Directed by Jeremy Aluma. Set Design Fred Kinney & Staci Walters; Costume Design Cat Elrod; Lighting Design Jeff Brewer; Sound Design Adam Smith; Stage Managers Essence Brown & Melanie Torres.