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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot



Man is a design flaw in the Creation. &mdashSatan
The leading ladyís voice was loud enough to give you whiplash. Saint Monica, speaking Ebonics, was totally unintelligible. Judas Iscariot spent most of his time in a catatonic state. And so did I.

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.

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
By Stephen Adly Guirgis
Directed by Robert Rothbard
Cast: Ronnie Marmo (Satan), Danny Nucci (Yusef El Fayoumy), Katy Jacoby (Fabiana Aziza Cunningham), Leticia Castillo (Loretta), Cynthia Dallas (Gloria/Soldier), Joe Dallo (Jesus of Nazareth/Sigmund Freud), Jimmy Freeman (Bailiff/Julius of Outer Mongolia/Butch Honeywell), Jerard Jones (Pontius Pilate/Uncle Pino), Paul McGee (Matthias of Galilee/Soldier), Max Middleton (Judge Littlefield/Saint Thomas), Robert Mollohan (Judas Iscariot), Jim Pacitti (Saint Matthew/Simon the Zealot), DJ Rabiola (Saint Peter/Soldier), Mahogany Ratcliffe (Saint Monica), Reese Rigby (Mary Magdalene), Grace Shen (Sister Glenna), Thomas Evans (Caiaphas the Elder), Katie Zeiner (Henrietta Iscariot/Mother Teresa)
Set, Lighting and Sound Design: Danny Cistone
Running Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes (includies one 15-minute intermission)
Produced by 68 Cent Crew Theater Company, Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 467-6688, www.68centcrew.com
From 01/18/08 to 02/24/08; opening 01/18/08
Tickets: Friday, Saturday $25, Sunday $20
Reviewed by Cynthia Citron on January 26, 2008

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