The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
At The Cultch until April 21
One would think there was little hope for Judas Iscariot who’s right up there with Hitler, Idi Amin and Pol Pot in public opinion. But American playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis puts a new spin on the old story. As Jesus (Todd Thomson) says in the play, he loves us all—Judas (Bob Frazer) most of all.
Guirgis uses a courtroom setup for his exploration of betrayal and redemption: God in the Kingdom of Heaven versus Judas Iscariot. What’s at stake is whether Judas goes to Heaven or Hell. Arguing for the defense is passionate Fabiana Aziza Cunningham (Katharine Venour); for the prosecution is oily Yusef El-Fayoumy (Marcus Youssef).
Guirgis writes the most crackling dialogue this side of David Mamet. It’s so shockingly coarse at times—Satan’s comment regarding Job, for example—you’re embarrassed to be caught laughing. Act 1 is a dazzler of one-liners, acid wit, gutter language and interesting argument.
But there’s a big sag in the middle—no fault of Stephen Drover (directing for Pound of Flesh Theatre as part of Rumble Theatre’s Tremors Festival) or this star-studded cast. The ensemble of 14 reads like a who’s who in Vancouver showbiz including Anthony F. Ingram (as a self-assured Freud), Dawn Petten (a demented, KitKat-gobbling Mother Teresa), Marci T. House (hottie Saint Monica) and Kevin McNulty (nasty Judge Littlefield).
But we all love a villain and Michael Kopsa, as Satan, is so evil, he’s fantastic. Kopsa is cocksure, suave, sexy and every minute he’s on stage it’s dynamite time with f-bombs exploding all over Drew Facey’s stage.
Guirgis takes three hours to spin the tale, and The Last Days would be a better play if it were more compact. It’s scandalously funny although I think the playwright’s obvious desire to shock us obscures his serious message, which seems to be a simple one of forgiveness.