The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

Rated 4.0

Beyond the Proscenium Productions pulls out all the stops with The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, using a large cast in a small space to every advantage as they illuminate every corner of Stephen Adley Guirgis’ play.

Set in a corner of Purgatory (a helpful angel tells us) is a courtroom that represents modern humanity’s idea of hope. Enter a crusading, Purgatory-bound lawyer, Cunningham (earnestly played by Renee DeGarmo), who presents a writ for a re-trial of Judas Iscariot, who languishes in a catatonic state in hell’s basement. Her efforts to spring him meet unfriendly ears until she prevails upon St. Monica, St. Augustine’s trash-talking mama (an award-worthy turn by Joelle Wirth). Soon God himself issues a writ requesting a hearing for Judas.

And then the fun begins. A trial, interspersed with re-enactments of crucial moments, that includes testimony from saints, soon-to-be-saints, a gangster Pontius Pilate (James Ellison, surely the busiest actor in town), and a CEO-slick Satan himself (Barry Hubbard).

The central problem, of course, is how an all-forgiving God can deny forgiveness to anyone—even Judas—and the suggested answers cover all the theological and ontological bases. The language is both highfalutin and as rough as the roughest barroom in town, but they’re talking about betrayal, faith, grace and salvation, so it all makes sense. From the concept of rejecting God as a kind of adultery to the contextualization of the political Jesus to the never-answered question of how we can possibly be held accountable for doing what we’re preordained to do, as in Judas’ betrayal of Christ, this play is heavy. It’s a good thing they add some laughs, and even with those, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is a little long-winded.

But for a play that is ultimately about ideas, the actors—especially David Campfield, a Daniel Day-Lewis lookalike who brings a quiet, desperate dignity to Judas—are able to make the intellectual resonate with the physical.

Like God, it’s the word made flesh.