(l-r) Ben Ortega as prosecutor El-Fayoumy , Michael Kelly as Clerk, Lewis Campbell as Judge Littefield, and Edith Reiner as defense attorney Cunningham in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at Custom Made Theatre.

LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT by Stephen Adly Guirgis and directed by Brian Katz. At Custom Made Theatre Gough Street Playhouse (formerly The Next Stage) 1620 Gough Street (at Bush), San Francisco. For tickets go to . Questions can be answered at or by calling 510.207.5774 September 30- October 30, 2010.


It is a great pleasure to witness the development of Custom Made Theatre Company who now has a permanent home at the Gough Street Playhouse. For their present show they convert an empty space into a marvelous set that received appreciative comments from the opening night audience and would please author Stephen Adly Gurgis. Gurgis is known for displaying the grubby side of human nature and for his questioning of religious doctrine. How then, would you design a set that is a courtroom in “Hope, a corner of downtown Purgatory?” It is worth a visit to see the set and the excellent production values almost make Gurgis’s verbose script palatable.

Whereas Purgatory has many creature comforts, there is only despair in Hope. Those in Hope must pass through a courtroom in Purgatory for their final disposition. Although the time is the present, Gurgis parades a plethora of characters from past creating an intellectual milieu studded with action and humor. The overriding question is the conflict between divine mercy and free will. If He is all-forgiving why does Judas Iscariot still reside in Hope in a catatonic state? To get the ball rolling Judas’s mother Henrietta (AJ Davenport) delivers an understated plea about her boy’s hard life that would melt the heart of any juror. Nevertheless, Judas doesn’t have to stand alone. St. Monica (Corrine Elizabeth Parker), who prayed 16+ years for her debaucherous son, is assigned to bring Judas out of his catatonia so that he can defend himself. After her astonishing hip-hop foul mouth dissertation, you know that if anyone can do it she can as see insists, “my ass gets results.”

Let the trial begin with Cunningham (Edith Reiner) ), an agnostic Irish/Gypsey battered woman defense lawyer presents a writ from the God to force a retrial for Judas. It’s El-Fayoumy (Ben Ortega),a horny religious flunky for the prosecution. Presiding Judge Littefield (Lewis Campbell replaces ailing Richard Ryan on short notice) is a no nonsense Civil War deserter who hanged himself and is not without need of redemption.

A kaleidoscopic assembly of witnesses from various centuries are paraded to the court and duly questioned and cross-examined. The cast of 15 play 27 roles. There are some exceptional performances and others that lack definition.. Among these are (alphabetically not in order of importance) Caiaphas the Elder (Lewis Campbell), Matthias of Galilee (Perry Aliado), Mary Magdalene (Amelia Avila), Mother Theresa (Brandy Leggett), Pontius Pilate (Stuart Elwyn Hall), Satan (Richard Wenzel ),Simon the Zealot (Michael Kelly), St. Matthew (Catz Forsman), St. Peter (Perry Aliado), St Thomas (Catz Forsman), and Sigmund Freud (Catz Forsman).

The dialog is the language of the streets and no one is spared accountability with the exception of Satan who truly has the last word in the trial. Gurgis has cleverly brought to life a non-literary figure named Butch Honeywell (Brian Katz) the foreman of the jury. Where Richard Wenzel gives a buffo performance and dominates the stage in the penultimate scene, Brian Katz steals his thunder in a quiet requiem that has the audience hushed. It brought to mind the final scene of Death of a Salesman. While Edith Reiner enters as if she is on a Benzedrine trip and remains on a high, Kudos go Ben Ortega who varies his demeanor getting the better of their duels as they alternate punching holes in strong arguments. Brandy Legget is hysterical as Angel Gloria with wings insisting she can fly but is out of her element as Mother Theresa. You won’t recognize Catz Forsman with his impressive performances as an apostle (two of them) and Sigmund Freud. Congratulations to Lewis Campbell who filled in on very short notice. He helms the role of Presiding Judge with authority but needs more rehearsal for the act 2 pivotal rule of Caiaphas the Elder.

Brian Katz handles the direction expertly and the must see one hour and 15 minute first act is riveting. However, a script that runs 2 hours and 50 minutes with intermission hampers him. Many of the ideas and arguments are repetitious and powerful when first introduced but become tedious by the end of the evening.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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