Religion has always been a touchy subject, and when making a play that emanates from the Christian story of Judas Iscariot and his betrayal of Christ, one must consider how much is too much. That is, how much religious content can you put in a theater piece before it becomes too confusing, offensive, or even boring? I believe that The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (playing at the Gloria Maddox Theatre) managed to avoid causing these negative reactions by using religion and several other matters that could be deemed touchy in a funny yet intelligent way.
This production revolved around a modern-day trial of Judas Iscariot after he had died, taking place in the afterlife, in which a snarky and confident lawyer from New York argued that Judas did not deserve to go to Hell. The play was filled with flashbacks and the like, used to both serve as evidence and to introduce the many witnesses. Although the wide array of characters was interesting and made the play memorable, there were times when it was difficult to understand why certain characters were being introduced or shown, their role in the play not being especially large or useful.
One of the elements that made me enjoy the production was the way the stage and room was set up. The audience was very close to the stage itself, and this made it easier, in my opinion, to get drawn into the play. Instead of having a sort of impersonal, distant feel, the set-up of having everyone crammed into a room that itself was not very large made the audience feel as if they were part of the play, witnessing the trial and flashbacks happen around them.
Perhaps my favorite part of the play was the last twenty minutes or so, when the comedic air drew to a close as the play took a turn for the darker. Actors became more passionate, their characters being fully brought to life as the jokes were put aside. The lights were dimmed, and the audience members seemed to draw their breath as the play powerfully drew to a close. The ending itself was not extremely unpredictable, and I don’t think that anyone was gaping with shock as the final verdict of the trial was revealed, but the way that the ending was delivered was fantastic.
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot was both a funny and powerful play, and although several of the scenes seemed to be a bit drawn out or unnecessary, I greatly enjoyed the play nonetheless.