On March 9-13, Raleigh Ensemble Players inaugurated its new performance space at 213 Fayetteville St. in downtown Raleigh, NC, with a powerhouse production of Steven Adly Guirgis’ 2005 courtroom drama, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, set in Purgatory and featuring a poignant performance by Ryan Brock as a scruffy and perennially downcast Judas and a majestic but mostly mute portrayal by Thaddaeus Edwards as Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord and Savior who Judas idolized for three years and then peevishly betrayed for 30 pieces of silver.
This riveting contest between human Free Will and Divine Mercy co-stars Lucius Robinson as a delightfully devilish Satan and David Henderson as a conscious-stricken everyman Butch Honeywell, who comes to empathize with Judas’ unwillingness to accept Divine Mercy for the unspeakable sin that he committed. Also creating vivid and unforgettable characters were the altogether wonderful Lormarev Jones as a trash-talking Saint Monica, Christine Rogers as Judas’ heartbroken mother Henrietta Iscariot, George Jack as a blunt-spoken Saint Peter and an evasive Caiaphas the Elder, Kenneth De Abrew as bombastic prosecutor Yusef El-Fayoumy, Hazel S. Edmond as an angelic Gloria and saintly Mother Teresa, and Byron Jennings as the court’s trusty Bailiff and Simon the Zealot.
The portrayals of Lori Scarborough Ingle as Judas’ defense attorney Fabiana Aziza Cunningham and Shawn Smith as the Judge lacked sufficient pizzazz. But long-time REP artistic director C. Glen Matthews deftly navigated the twists and turns of this difficult play, which his energetic ensemble brought to full, glorious life.
Jessica Jalal Phelps as Loretta/Sister Glenna/Mary Magdalene, Adam Rogers as Uncle Pino/Saint Peter/Pontius Pilate, and Jordan Long as Sigmund Freud/Soldier also deserve kudos for contributing a number of charismatic cameos to this provocative piece; and production designer Thomas Mauney, properties coordinator Lucius Robinson, sound designer Becca Easley, and stage manager Hillary Aarons also did yeoman’s work to make the inaugural presentation in REP’s new performance space at 213 Fayetteville St. a production to remember.
SECOND OPINION: March 12th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3.5 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/artery/archives/2011/03/12/good-cast-long-scriptin-a-tight-situation-reps-the-last-days-of-judas-iscariot and March 9th preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/opening-night-at-raleigh-ensemble-players-new-theater/Content?oid=2139656; March 10th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/03/10/1043249/review-an-engaging-performance.html; and March 10th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts & Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/03/the-last-days-of-judas-iscariot-makes-its-mark-on-ash-wednesday/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the March 8th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/03/the-last-days-of-judas-iscariot-opens-reps-brand-new-performance-space-on-march-9th/.)
The Play: http://dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=3629 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Days_of_Judas_Iscariot (Wikipedia), and http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=show&id=4080 (Internet Off-Broadway Database).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Adly_Guirgis (Wikipedia), http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=people&first=Stephen&last=Guirgis&middle=Adly (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0012289/ (Internet Movie Database).
Judas Iscariot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judas_Iscariot (Wikipedia), http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08539a.htm (Catholic Encyclopedia), and http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=671&letter=J (Jewish Encyclopedia).
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