The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Dates 16 October 20 October 2007 Venue Capilano College Theatre, North vancouver

Reviewer John Jane

Exit22, named after a Trans-Canada Highway off-ramp that no longer exists (Exit 22A hardly has the same ring), is the production unit of the Capilano College Theatre Arts Program. It provides an opportunity for students to showcase their skills and talents in front of a ticket-buying audience. The program, with Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Last Days of Judas Iscariot has brought to the stage its most ambitious project to date.

The play, directed with splendid timing and an appropriate light touch by Dawn Moore, is set in an improvised courtroom in central Purgatory. It brings back the most consequential people from Jerusalem in AD 33: Pontius Pilate, High Priest Caiaphas, Simon the Zealot and Mary Magdalene. Modern historic figures such as Sigmund Freud and Mother Theresa are called to testify as expert witnesses.

The premise here is the re-examination of the case of Judas Iscariot and whether he should be finally condemned to Hell for all eternity. Representing the Kingdom of Heaven is the comically euphuistic El-Fayoumy, played with incredible zeal by Dimitrios Andreas Stephanoy. On the opposite side, representing Judas is the fetching Fabiana Aziza Cunningham, whose psyche is a perfect counterpoint to her flamboyant adversary. Laena Caprice Brown (these actors have even more intriguing names than their characters) is enticingly all business. In spite of her tendency to screech through her character's passionate moments she certainly holds her own playing it straight against an array of zany characters.

From the outstanding cast of performers, many of whom play multiple roles, individual performances range from competent to superb. Standout performances come from the charismatic Sereana Malani in her dual roles of the hip-talking Saint Monica and a Rastafarian reading of Pontius Pilate; Chris Harvey portrays Satan with a swaggering arrogance in a white Gucci suit and Thomas Boutilier has the tough job of spending most his time on stage crawling round in a catatonic trance.

David Winstanley may have been influenced by the recent garbage strike, since his multi-level stage is dressed with an assortment of refuse (fortunately, not the smelly kind). Actors are able to effectively use all the levels well but accessing certain sections requires some agility. Other technical aspects of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot are consistently up to the same professional high standards of previous Exit22 productions.

On the downside, it perhaps could work as well, fifteen minutes shorter in length and some of the intentional chaos in the first act is – well, chaotic. Fundamental Christians may be uncomfortable with the way Mother Theresa is condensed to a caricature.

The relationship between Jesus and his duplicitous disciple continues to be a powerful force, evoking much thought-provoking discussion. Did Jesus Christ mastermind his own betrayal? Was Judas simply an instrument who was pre-programmed by a higher being to effect Christ’s planned execution? Guirgis offers us many questions in this potent mix of comedy, drama and pathos. In the form of the jury foreman rendering the verdict to Judas in the final scene, he partly attempts a conclusion.

Perhaps Bob Dylan said it best in his song, “With God on our side.”
Been thinkin' about this, that Christ was betrayed by a kiss.
But I can't think for you - you'll have to decide.
Whether Judas Iscariot had God on his side.

© 2007 John Jane