Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
The Shelton Theater is presenting an interesting production of Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Last Days of Judas Iscariot through August 12. The play premiered Off-Broadway in 2005 with Eric Bogosian as Satan and Sam Rockwell as Judas; Philip Seymour Hoffman directed the Labyrinth Theatre Company production at the Public Theatre. That version ran over two and a half hours. This production is 80 minutes with no intermission.
The setting is in purgatory, where everyone speaks American slang. The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is a serio-comic drama in an imagined world between heaven and hell that re-examines the plight and fate of the New Testament's most infamous sinner. It takes the form of a courtroom drama in which an appeal in being launched against Judas' damnation to hell. Throughout the play figures like Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene, Mother Teresa, Sigmund Freud, St. Thomas, and of course Satan are called to testify in the trial of God and the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth vs. Judas Iscariot. The playwright uses the intense, hectic language of modern America to reconnoiter timeless questions of free will and responsibility.
What gives the play its life is that Guirgis handles big issues with comic flair. Direction by Richard Ciccarone gives full weight to the rich text. It is performed in what looks like the no-frills basement of downtown Purgatory. Also, there is strange Martha Graham style dancing and posturing in this production.
Richard Ciccarone has assembled an energetic cast of seven actors to perform various roles. Matt Shelton is excellent as Satan and doubting apostle Thomas. As a catatonic Judas, Daryl Anthony Harper gives a pitch perfect performance. Rebecca Seideman, Benoit Monin, Virginia Blanco, Frank Over, Natasha Janiece Lagrone, Karen Goldstein, and Benita Ward Jarrett fill out various roles and give virtuous performances.
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot runs through August 12, 2017, at The Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, San Francisco, Thursday through Saturday. For tickets www.sheltontheater.org.