Halfway between Heaven and Hell, in a place called Hope, history’s most infamous sinner stands trial. In a court room that’s as much ghetto as gospel, the witnesses are called – Mother Teresa, Pontius Pilate, Sigmund Freud, a foul-mouthed Saint Monica, a college English teacher, a handful of Jesus’ disciples – to decide eternal questions of forgiveness, mercy, and eternal damnation. Wildly funny, scathingly provocative.
If you've read the cast list, you already have fourteen compelling reasons to get a ticket. PT regulars like Katharine Venour, Michael Kopsa, Anthony F. Ingram, Ron Reed. You saw Carl Kennedy in Jesus Hopped The 'A' Train (also written by Stephen Adly Giurgis), Todd Thomson in Espresso, Kyle Jespersen in Ten November, Bob Frazer in The Glass Menagerie. Others back from the original cast are Marcus Youssef (prosecuting attorney), Kevin McNulty (judge), and Dawn Petten (Mother Teresa), and joining the cast are Marci T. House, Adrienne Wong and Beatrice Zeilinger.
Another reason I could have mentioned (but won't) is that this play is funny. Funny, funny, funny. F U N N Y. I first saw the play in Orlando, in the spring before our staged reading, and I howled. Embarrassingly. Barked, snorted, guffawed, eeked. It's brash, in your face, smart as hell ("smart as purgatory?"), I-can't-believe-I'm-laughing hilarious. Until it breaks your heart.
But those AREN'T the reasons I'm going to trot out today. Because you've already heard those ones. What I'm going to dangle in front of you today is... Theology.
Oh my gosh. Your head will spin. All your qualms, questions, ponderings, doubts and frustrations about heaven and hell, damnation and salvation, the Synoptic Problem and the eternal communion of the saints and sinners... It's all here.
Many in the cast are devouring copies of "A Jesuit Off-Broadway: Center Stage with Jesus, Judas, and Life's Big Questions" by James Martin, SJ. Father Martin is a priest in a New York parish who one day found himself on the other end of the phone line with Sam Rockwell, whom he'd never met. (You know, Sam Rockwell. Matchstick Men, Heist, Galaxy Quest, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Frost/Nixon, Moon, Lawn Dogs, Box Of Moonlight, Basquiat, Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - he played Zaphod Beeblebrox). "I'm playing Judas in this play. Can you answer a few questions?"
Then it was Stephen Adley Guirgis ("the best playwright in America under forty" - New York Times). Then Philip Seymour Hoffman (I won't bother listing his credits, except to say he was working on CAPOTE at the time). Then Eric Bogosian. Then the rest of the members of LAByrinth, New York's most exciting theatre company.
So Martin was invited to become the "theological consultant" for THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT in the six months of its development that led up to its New York premiere. In fact, he was eventually invited to join the company: not as an actor, but as something of a priest-in-residence!
His book, a memoir of sorts, is jam-packed with personal anecdotes, New Testament history, lively theology, and the awestruck musings of a backstage priest who's new to the world of live theatre. A wonderful read! I've ordered multiple copies to share around, and CAN'T STAND THE THOUGHT THAT ANYBODY WILL MISS A PLAY SO RICHLY THEOLOGICAL, SO WILDLY ENTERTAINING, SO PERSONALLY CHALLENGING AND SO SPIRITUALLY MOVING.
It runs only two weeks. Ten performances. By the time reviews run in the papers, it may be too late to get a ticket. PLEASE don't miss it!
And here are a few pages from "A Jesuit Off-Broadway" - not the theological part, but a beguiling introduction.
Click on pages below for larger image...
For further reading, a significant portion of the book is posted at Google Books.