Promotional poster for The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
This March, Nomadic Theatre put on The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, a satirical “dramedy” that circulates around the point of Judas’s lost soul in Purgatory. The true story is uncovered as the surrounding characters battle their own feelings of ineptitude and fear, each using Judas’s failings as a way to interpret and find reason in their own lives.
The play is set in an American style courtroom as defender and prosecutor duke it out, calling upon figures of the past to aid them in the fight for Judas’s future. Witnesses include Mother Teresa, Sigmund Freud, and even Judas’s own mother. Each character adds a new level to the story, and to the audience’s understanding of who Judas is. But do not let the heavy matter trick you; The Last Days of Judas Iscariot offers crass humor and gut busting laughter.
The play, written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, originally premiered off-Broadway in 2005. It was directed by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and was fairly well received. Georgetown took this established play, and was able to create something really beautiful. The play was directed by students Velani Dibba and produced by Bee Jaworski.
At the start of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, the producer walked onto the stage and warned that there will be live smoking on the stage and that extremely harsh language will be used. With that warning in mind, we were off. The play begins with a single light on the mother of Judas lamenting her loss. Then the lights come on, and we are introduced to the the courtroom. Throughout the first act, the audience becomes familiar with the two main actors: the defendant's lawyer Fabiana Cunningham (played by Allison Lane) and the prosecutor El Fayoumy (played by Ben Lillian). They both gave great performances but Lillian steals any scene he is in, adding outrageous humor to every situation.
The players are able to find a balance between the seriousness of their situation and levity. As the play continues, the audience views Judas as more of a human being, with the highs and lows every person experiences. The play allows people to grow connected with each of the dynamic characters. Satan (played by Danny Frumento) gives an outstanding performance; first introduced as charismatic and charming, but later in the play exploding on stage in a chilling scene. The plot includes flashbacks, and personal stories about both Jesus and Judas.
The second half of the play takes on a darker tone. The stories begin to be told about Jesus, making Judas’s crime feel more personal. It is only at the second to last scene where Jesus gets introduced on stage. Judas becomes coherent and the two of them engage in a heartfelt moment. Judas yells at Jesus for abandoning him, while Jesus defends himself, while the Devil looks on from the corner. The play ends with one of the jury declaring Judas guilty, before talking about the sins of his own life. It is a beautiful moment that shows the tumultuous human relationship with guilt.
Nomadic Theatre is known for being “technically ambitious” and this set is a sight to behold. They have created the illusion of a courtroom with only plywood, paint, and a very small stage. There are railings around the stage making the audience feel like part of the jury. The judge’s seat and connected witness box stands in the middle of a massive structure that the actors use throughout the play to enter, exit, or to sit on top of. The attention to detail remains a factor throughout the play; the costumes are tailored perfectly not only to each character’s time period, but also to their personality. Actors are present during each down moment and the hand of a gifted director is obvious. Each component of the play has been touched with love and care.