The thrilling opening performance of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (directed by Academy Award winner Estelle Parsons) celebrated multiple milestones. The evening honored the 55th anniversary of La MaMa, the Experimental Theater Club presenting the play and formed by Actors Studio members.
To commemorate The Actors Studio’s 70th anniversary, Mayor DeBlasio declared March 13th “Actors Studio Day” in New York. Co-President (and Triple Crown) Ellen Burstyn graciously accepted the Mayor’s plaque along with esteemed board members.
The twenty-eight member Studio cast creatively brought to life Pulitzer Prize winning author Stephen Adly Guirgis’s controversial appeal of Judas Iscariot- the disciple who betrayed Jesus for thirty silver pieces.
Freud (a believable Timothy Doyle), Pontus Pilate (a passionate LeLand Gantt), Mary Magdalene (the sexy Burnadair Lipscomb-Hunt) and a male Mother Theresa (the hilarious Bob Adrian) are among the gaggle of famous souls who juror and testify in purgatory’s courtroom. Jesus (a poignant Michael Billinglsey) was omnipresent.
Suzanne Di Donna was vulnerably tough as Cunningham, the bodacious defense attorney who hammers the facts. Daniel Grimaldi charmed with comedic, bisexual, smut as the prosecuting attorney.
Satan, played by Javier Molina was seductively delicious as he smarmed his way through the courtroom with authentic street swagger. Saint Monica kicked up the first act with her passionate monologue.
Kudos to the diverse casting and Ms. Parson’s direction- she encouraged a modern tone and freedom for her actors to fly.
The audience delighted in the play which concisely filled in the gaps in all those Bible stories learned as a child. The three hour running time felt more like an hour and a half.