The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
Last night I went to a staged reading of The Trial of Judas Iscariot, a joint production with Pound of Flesh Theatre and presented at Pacific Theatre. I’d never been to the venue before at 12th and Hemlock. It’s a converted space in the basement of a church that used to house a swimming pool. Instead of the traditional stage/audience divide, the audience is split into two halves, with the small stage sandwiched in-between. The actors can enter and exit on three sides, two leading them under the audience. The theatre was intimate, which was pleasant enough and also rather warm and stuffy, which was less pleasant.
The Trial is an odd bit of theater and was presented in an equally unusual manner — Ron Reed, the artistic director, came onstage before the show to explain that the actors, who had been working with the script for a scant two and a half days, would be bringing said script onstage with them. Costumes would be minimal or suggested, as would props and scenery. Surprisingly, the performances were for the most part wonderfully tight, with only one notable (and actually funny) pause as one actor suddenly realized she was forgetting a single word and had to pause to find it on the page before continuing.
The play is an abstraction that puts Judas on trial for his betrayal of Jesus and instead of having a historical setting, it is instead presented in the modern day, with figures from the past ranging from Pontius Pilate to Mother Teresa and Freud mingling in a courtroom where the prosecution seems destined for Hell and the defense doesn’t seem squeaky clean, either. The first act rolls along quickly, with some very funny turns by Marcus Youssef as the sycophantic prosecutor, trying to stave off a trip to Hell while proving how Judas deserves to stay there and Michael Kopsa as Satan (“Call me Lou”), who metaphorically shifts forms throughout, from aw shucks nice guy to the one condemning you to an eternity of damnation without a glimmer of delight to be seen.
The auditorium doors had signs warning of extreme vulgar language and that warning is earned. This was stuff that could peel the paint off of Tarantino’s living room, yet it rarely felt gratuitous.
However, I ultimately left disappointed because despite some terrific performances and a strong, even rollicking first act, the second act’s pace slows noticeably as the characters indulge in longer and more serious monologues, all to service The Serious Message being presented about the nature of forgiveness. Eventually it felt like I’d stumbled into the Biblical equivalent of a Very Special Episode of Blossom. I am pretty tired of this kind of inconsistent and indulgent tone in stories, whatever the format, because it feels nakedly manipulative — stringing the audience along with “cheap” laughs in order to hit them with that oh-so-powerful sucker punch later — the Serious Message. There is certainly nothing wrong in exploring serious themes and I love a good drama as much as anyone, but this was less getting-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter and more eating a coconut cream pie only to find a slab of liver at the bottom.
Third Man Out
Third Man Out is a 2005 movie featuring the gay PI Donald Strachey, played by Chad “Yeah, that was me in the hot tub” Allen, who wears the role well. A user review on IMDB sums the film up appropriately as a gay twist on the old Nick and Nora movies. Mixing light banter with a murder mystery and all of it set against the hidden and not-so-hidden gay milieu around Albany, NY, the first installment rolls along smoothly, with plenty o’ beefcake to keep those less interested in whodunnit engaged while dropping in enough red herrings to keep everyone else watching. You could tell it was shot in Vancouver not just because of glimpses of places like Esso stations but also the fact that it was raining in nearly every damn scene. It may be difficult to track down the remaining movies in the series (four total so far) but I shall try!