A cosmological courtroom drama about the most infamous betrayal in Western civilization, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is a production that struggles with itself—which is fitting, since its main character has the same problem. Judas was written by Stephen Adly Guirgis (Jesus Hopped the "A" Train, The Motherfucker with the Hat) and originally directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman for the Public Theater. The script calls people throughout history and mythology to the stand—Sigmund Freud, Mother Teresa, Pontius Pilate, Satan himself, et al.—to figure out what Judas's deal was. Did he flip Jesus to the Roman occupiers and their lapdogs in the Judaic priesthood because Jesus was truly dangerous, the Osama bin Laden of His time? Did he do it to protect the fledgling anti-Roman revolution? Or was Judas just plain eeeeevil?
Judas is an unevenly entertaining, and occasionally harrowing, two and a half hours of courtroom testimony and flashbacks. The sprawling play has 15 actors who are sometimes too enthusiastic for their own good, screeching out lines (especially in the first act) that are barely understandable. At other times, it slows down and lets its quiet, sinister undertones come out and cut to the bone, as in the scene where Satan (performed as an unctuous and manipulative nightclub denizen by Brenan Grant) hunts down a guilt-racked post-betrayal Judas (Joey Fechtel) in a bar while he's getting wasted and contemplating suicide. Judas also has an excellently chilling scene in hell between a near-catatonic Judas and an aloof Jesus Christ (Dylan Twiner) who speaks in vague aphorisms. Jesus airily tells Judas he has the power to forgive himself, that salvation is his for the asking. Judas tells Jesus to fuck off—that He has no idea what He's talking about.
Judas smashes together the conventions of courtroom dramas and the anxieties of contemporary Christianity—sin, redemption, free will, why we're so hung up on the ideas of desert-dwellers from 2,000 years ago—into a colorful and sometimes messy patchwork.