Wednesday, February 18, 2009

*The Last Days of Judas Iscariot*

a readers theater production of the courtroom comedy/drama by Stephen Adly Guirgis
on Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 26-28, at 7 pm
at Gonzaga University's Wolff Auditorium, which is a large lecture hall inside the Jepson Center, which is just east of the Jundt Art Center (with its distinctive copper steeple)

directed by Kevin Connell, S.J., principal of Gonzaga Prep

[ photo: playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, from ]

A 2002 British Theatre Guide interview with Guirgis (who has an Egyptian father and Irish-American mother) is
A snip:
Guirgis was possibly "the worst-ever student [at SUNY Albany]. He studied theatre, occasionally, and spent seven-and-a-half years over his four-year degree course. The degree that he came out with was as much in Partying as in Theatre.

A theatrical trailer for the May 2008 London production is at:

[photo of top of this post is the production poster for the London production at the Almeida Theatre, March-May 2008]

The Talkin' Broadway review is here.

A March 2005 review by Ben Brantley in the N.Y. Times is here.
A snip:
"The colorful vernacular speech, studded with obscenities and brand names, and flashy performances, steeped in Frank Capraesque whimsy, can't disguise the impression that the play is a heavily footnoted position paper on a big, big subject.
Set in a courtroom in a corner of purgatory called Hope, "Judas Iscariot" considers nothing less than the conflict between divine mercy and human free will. If God is all-forgiving, the play asks, then why is Judas condemned to an eternity in hell?"

Phillip Seymour Hoffman directed, with Sam Rockwell as Judas and Eric Bogosian as Satan; this performance at the Public Theater was its premiere.

from Wikipedia:
*The Last Days of Judas Iscariot* tells the story of Judas while in purgatory litigates with his lawyers for the for entry into heaven. The play uses flashbacks to an imagined childhood, and lawyers who call for the testimonies of such witnesses as Mother Teresa, Caiaphas, Sigmund Freud and Satan."

Other plays by Guirgis:
In Arabia We'd All Be Kings (a grim portrait of life on the streets; Guirgis grew up on the Upper West Side and went to school in Harlem -- a life much like that of the young adults in Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth)

Our Lady of 121st Street (an alcoholic nun dies -- and then her body miraculously [?] disappears)

Jesus Hopped the A Train (about an underdog who won't give up)

Den of Thieves (a black comedy about a burglary that goes south)

ADDED 2/19/09:
Q&A with director Kevin Connell:

Bobo: How will you differentiate the courtroom drama from the flashbacks?
Father Connell: The means by which the characters enter the play will, I hope, distinguish the scenes which take place outside the trial itself.
We will be relying greatly, however, upon the audience to “piece out our imperfections with your thoughts.”

Honestly now: Would the Gonzaga administration have approved a play with lots of F-bombs in it if it WERE NOT being directed by a Jesuit?
I do not think we really asked them. The play itself has a great Jesuit pedigree through James Martin, S.J. He’s a New York Jesuit who was a theological consultant on the original production and wrote a highly regarded book about it called *A Jesuit Off-Broadway.*
The play’s language is incredibly rough, but so is Dante’s in *The Inferno,* one of the greatest pieces of Catholic literature ever written. What is important, I think, is not whether some the characters talk like sailors (which several of the Apostles were, sort of), but whether its depiction of Christ and Christianity is fair, reverent, and respectful. I think this play is utterly sound on that point. (And Jesus doesn’t swear.)

I'd love to hear from a priest on the topic of religious doubt: Doesn't it undermine belief to raise it, especially in the provocative, iconoclastic way that Guirgis does?
This play deals with the religious value of religious doubt very honestly. As a Catholic and a priest, I think religious doubt is vital to the development of religious faith. When I was a little boy, I asked my father, who was a very devout Catholic, why all the fish died during Noah’s flood. He told me, “There was so much water their gills clogged.” For a 4-year-old, that answer worked. If I had been happy with answer my whole life, however, I’d have grown up to be a pretty lame Christian. I probably AM a lame Christian, but whatever of value there is to my faith is the result of doubts and questions. Guirgis picks the Latin scripture quotation "Domine Adjuva Incredulitatem Meam” (“Lord, help my unbelief!” ) as the epigraph for his first act.
What I love about this play is that it challenges us to tell the difference between doubt and despair. Many, many of the play’s characters find that Christ does not live up to their expectations. Some of them find a way beyond that and some choose not to.

Does the play ultimately suggest that God is not ALL-forgiving, especially of those who betray him?
I think this play resoundingly affirms the loving, forgiving nature of God. As Jesus says in the play, “If you hate who I love, you do not know me at all. And make no mistake, ‘Who I love’ is every last one.”

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