Saw Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Last Days of Judas Iscariot as part of the Tremors Festival at the Cultch. It’s directed by Stephen Drover. The play deserved the wildly enthusiastic audience who saw it on Tuesday night. It is wickedly funny and yet all the timeless themes of love and betrayal, truth and forgiveness are given their due.
Judas Iscariot is on trial for his betrayal of Christ. The action takes place in a courtroom in Purgatory with modern dress and a brilliant, simple set. The actors were almost all outstanding, so it’s a bit silly trying to list all the stellar performances: Kevin McNulty as the judge, Katharine Venour and Marcus Youssef as the lawyers, Dawn Petten as Mother Teresa, Carl Kennedy as Pontius Pilate, and Michael Kopsa as Satan had me laughing so much that I missed some of the words and I vainly tried to remember some of the punchier lines. (The preliminary material says, “Strongest possible language warning.”) Ron Reed has a deceptively simple monologue as a remorseful Butch Honeywell that was note perfect.
The language is the real star in this production; the language of the street and of the courtroom — word meant to heal and words meant to wound. Because the witty script with its deadly verbal duelling keeps you on the edge of your seat, the scene at the end with Jesus and Judas is a bit of an anticlimax. Jesus actually uses the word “verily,” which struck a false note. Drawn-out piety is less appealing than rapid-fire profanity — to this shallow theatre-goer, anyway.