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Theatre Review (LA): The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis at the Odyssey Theatre

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The Last Days of Judas Iscariot seems to have taken over Los Angeles. I think there have been about five productions in the last year or so. I have now seen two of these shows, and been in the first, one directed by Matt Shakman for The Black Dahlia Theatre.

The current production at the Odyssey Theatre by the Theatre Academy of Los Angeles City College is really extremely well done. I must admit I went to the show with great trepidation because I know, first hand, how difficult the play is to produce, direct, and be part of. It offers some great character roles for a huge cast, so it may seem a natural for colleges to put on. But, frankly, I didn’t think LA City College could pull it off. They did, with bells on.

This production is set in a warehouse full of boxes labeled “grace,“ “despair,“ etc. What a great, economical set, I thought, but it actually serves to highlight the nature of the setting, Purgatory, as a place waiting for packages to be processed and delivered. Director Al Rossi has done a remarkable job with the cast, most of whom are students but all, except one, over 21 years of age, and associated with LA City College in one way or another.

What stands out for me in this production is the number of times Rossi uses mere touching of one character by another to completely humanize the proceedings; not easy when you are dealing with such icons as Freud, Jesus, Judas, Mother Teresa, the Devil. Rossi also made some interesting character choices. Putting Mother Teresa in a motorized wheelchair is a stroke of theatrical gold. He also has Simon the Zealot played like Che (sort of) to great effect.

The actors are all quite good but I do want to single out Fred Fate (Head of the Theatre Department) as Judge and Caiaphus. He does some fine work. The same may be said for Jacxon Daniels as Pilate, Ernesto M. Cayabyab as Bailiff, Eric Connelly as Judas, and Tony Maggio as Jesus. A standout was Martin Head playing Saint Monica as a drag — hilarious. Other standouts were Kate Whitney and John Christopher as the attorneys.

The show closed over Memorial Day but is rumored to be returning, perhaps in August, so stay tuned — it's well worth the visit to the Odyssey Theatre.

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