Hub Theatre Company of Boston reexamines the Bible’s biggest betrayal in ‘The Last Days of Judas Iscariot’
“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” produced by Hub Theatre Company of Boston at First Church Boston through Nov. 23, takes place in a tiny, abandoned quarter of purgatory. And there couldn’t be a better setting for this dark, thought-provoking courtroom comedy.
The court gathers to re-judge Judas, the infamous betrayer of the Bible who turns in Jesus, which ultimately leads to his death. The question is, does Judas deserve to be sentenced to eternity in hell or should he be forgiven and let into heaven? It’s a centuries-old reckoning between the Christian ideas of God’s eternal, unconditional love and fiery damning punishment for sins. Sigmund Freud, Mother Theresa and Satan all show up to testify, and the characters and audience spend the three-hour run time grappling with big questions about faith and forgiveness.
Though the show is heavily laden with religious characters and anecdotes, it’s not really about religion. The plot turns on the theme of despair, which is the greatest prison of all, one of man’s own making. Those in despair are punishing themselves for their own sins, and it’s a more powerful form of penance than any concocted by Dante’s fiery afterworld or the suave Satan depicted in the show.
The themes strike another, perhaps unintentional, chord in our divisive political era when forgiving bad behavior and seeing other perspectives is increasingly challenging. In “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” Mother Theresa has a bit of a celebrity ego and Pontius Pilot (almost) makes a few sympathetic points about his decision to crucify Christ. Anything can be, and is, spun any way.
Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Award-nominated playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis wrote “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” and this production is directed by award-winning local talent Steven Bogart. The ensemble features local actors Blyss Cleveland as Saint Monica, Rory Lambert-Wright as Pontius Pilate, Jaime Hernandez as Jesus of Nazareth, Enosa Ogbeide as Gloria and Mary Magdalene, and Cristhian Mancinas-Garcia as Judas Iscariot, among many others. In a rare theatrical feat, every member of the cast shines.
The show is a long and complicated one, though it can’t be said to ever be dull. It could benefit from editing, although playwright Guirgis has forbidden any cuts to the script. The Hub Theatre Company of Boston does an exceptional job performing a piece that’s brimming with larger-than-life personalities, complicated rapid-fire dialogue and heavy emotion.
Tickets to all shows are pay-what-you-can. In fact, Hub is the only company in Boston that’s pay-what-you-can always, during every show, at every performance. The company will also be collecting gently loved children’s toys and books at each performance to be donated to local charities. Just in case audience members need a few extra good deeds to keep them out of purgatory.