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Open: 04/21/09- Close: 04/25/09 The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot
Reviewed for By: Lisa del Rosso

Deliriously good, the play “The Last days of Judas Iscariot” by Stephen Aldy Guirgis begins with the Last Supper. Twelve apostles enter, a diverse, loud bunch in street clothes, awaiting the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth. He does come, ministers, and a gorgeous tableau is struck. The rest of the play takes place in a courtroom, but it is far from a staid drama. As staged by the APACHE Project in conjunction with John Jay College, and well directed by Dana Tarantino, it has earth, fire, wit, heaven and a bit of the Devil.

Judas Iscariot (David Paarlberg, who strikes just the right balance between suffering and unsympathetic) is in a catatonic state, unable to forgive himself or Jesus for his fate. Fabiana Cunningham, a defense attorney (Chelsea Kilburn) tries, in a court of law, to find out who exactly is responsible for the death of Jesus, and if Judas can forgive himself, or in fact, be forgiven. If Jesus wanted to stop what had happened to him, couldn’t he have done so? Did he, as Judas believes, turn away from him in his time of need? Cunningham has her hands full, not only with defending a man most of the world, both living and dead, hate, but also with the omni-sexual, slithery prosecutor Al-Fayoumy (the excellent Michael Fudge, reminiscent of Truman Capote speaking in a lower register). A cast of characters comes to testify: among them, Mother Theresa (a delightful Rosie Pignataro), Satan (Isaac Bush, resplendent in head-to-toe white Gucci), and Pontius Pilate (the electric Langston Belton, with a politician’s slickness and a preacher’s fire).

The beauty of Guirgis’ play is his ability to capture the ordinariness of the apostles through language (by using slang and some expletives), cultural references, humor, manner, setting and costumes. For example: Paarlberg’s Judas looks like a slacker in his grunge clothing; his speech is peppered with a lot of “hey mans,” and “mans.” This kind of detail extends to minor characters as well, such as St. Monica (Victoria Trina Hervas, in a terrific star turn) bedecked in glitter, trash-glam and a Latina street-wise attitude. In a video, police brutality comes to mind from the treatment Judas receives when he tries to redeem himself and give back his thirty pieces of silver; also effective was the scene in Bathsheba, the bar where Judas chose to drown his sorrows when he and Satan “happened” to meet. All ordinary and recognizable. The sole exception is Jesus (Eric Carpenter) who is and should be different from all the rest, and he has a calming presence whenever he walks onto the stage (and that, to Carpenter’s credit, is even before he opens his mouth to speak).

As far as the length of the play goes, I find it a bit over-long, clocking in at almost three hours. It could use some judicious pruning, and while I understand Satan needs his day in court, his long five-minute recess to rant about the errant souls at the vending machines does not really add much to the proceedings. However, that is a small gripe, and has to do with the play; it is not to be confused with this vibrant production. Spoiler alert: the final scene will break your heart.

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Gerald W. Lynch Theater : 899 Tenth Avenue