Stephen Adly Guirgis is considered to be one of America’s leading young playwrights. In New York City his plays are usually presented by the Labyrinth Theatre Company, directed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Here in Los Angeles they have been presented by various groups, including the prize-winning Black Dahlia Theatre and the VS Theatre Company. The 68 Cent Theatre Crew, also an award-winning company, has now joined the Guirgis bandwagon with an excellent production of The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot.
Judas (the riveting and compelling Robert Mollan) is on trial in Purgatory, being defended by “pulchritudinous dish” Fabiana Aziza Cunningham (the sexy and determined Katy Jacoby). The opposing lawyer, Yusef El Fayoumy, is portrayed by the very funny Danny Nucci. The trial calls forth various witnesses, including Mother Teresa (Katie Zeiner), the nervous and guilty Caiaphus The Elder (Thomas Evans), Sigmund Freud (Joe Dallo, who doubles as Jesus), and an assortment of saints. The foul-mouthed trickster Satan is well acted by Ronnie Marmo, Max Middleton plays the impatient Judge Littlefield, and Jimmy Freeman plays Julius of Outer Mongolia and Butch Honeywell with great sincerity and flair.
Most of these characters are portrayed as New York City street people. By using that conceit, Guirgis has you pay attention to a familiar story in a new light.
The production is well directed by Robert Rothbard, who keeps things moving so you don’t really notice it’s nearly 11 pm when you leave the theatre. Mr. Rothbard might have done a little more work in discovering why these characters act the way they do (I think they are all trying to be saved, including Jesus) and why they are where they are (Heaven, Hell, Purgatory). I did like the way he handles the end, allowing Butch Honeywell, who doesn’t know if he is ready to die so he tries to get redemption from a catatonic Judas, to exit into a subway car, destination unknown. Rothbard also has Satan reappear at the end waiting to take Judas to Hell, a chilling conclusion to an excellent production.
Danny Cistone's remarkable set places the entire action in a New York subway station with street names like “Hope” and signs pointing "Uptown" (Heaven) and "Downtown" (Hell). This is a brilliant design and suits the play to a T. Playing at the 68 Cent Crew at 5914 Sunset (parking on the roof!) until March 30.