No Real Passion at Play

No Real Passion at Play

“Judas Iscariot” offers no compelling counterpoint to the fallen apostle’s bad rap

“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” a co-production of the LAByrinth Theater Company and the Public, is a tedious piece of theater drunk on its own self-importance and collapsing under its shallow facility.

Ostensibly suggesting that Judas has suffered long enough for betraying Christ, the play never rises above its juvenile concept that the saints of the church can be potty-mouthed. This, in and of itself, would not be so bad, except the theological exploration never goes deeper than a church school filmstrip and playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis appears so in love with his set pieces and adolescent iconoclasm that he never bothers with anything as trivial as coherent narrative.

With appearances by Sigmund Freud, Mother Teresa and other “real life” people, the script seems like watered down Tony Kushner, and Guigris has apparently ignored the fact that allegory requires intelligence or at least a consistent thematic style. This play is, simply, an overlong, overwrought mess.

Directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, the play has no idea what it wants to be—courtroom drama, farce, quasi-liturgical music video? It is often impossible to understand the actors who scream a lot and have no believable basis for their behavior.

At the end of the day, or the show, one really doesn’t care. Certainly the actors don’t seem to. They rant, curse and, in the case of Eric Bogosian as Satan, lazily play stereotypes that neither explore the characters nor hold any sustainable interest. Even the suggestion that Jesus may have hired the lawyer to defend Judas as a model of forgiveness seems trite and forced.

There’s simply nothing new here. If you’re looking for substantive theological argument, you’d be better off with Shaw. And if you want to diddle around with the scriptures, you’d be better off with “Godspell.” Whatever, you probably don’t need the real-life experience of purgatory that “The Last Days of Jucas Iscariot” offers.