(Photos: Jaime Diaz)
Written by Patrick Chavis
After watching The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at Santa Ana College, I was reminded about not just the nature of drama but comedy as well. Good drama — if not always then very often –requires comedy to lighten the load of the story especially when it comes to very difficult topics or subject matter. Comedy should balance the drama in a yin and yang sort of way so that comedic and dramatic parts of the play complement each other. In this production, playing only one more weekend at the Phillips Hall in Santa Ana, the dramatic and comedic elements tended to fight each other instead of complementing the narrative. Still, there is plenty of meaty material coming from some very talented actors as well as some brave, enlightened scene staging.
The play is about a trial to defend Judas Iscariot (Juan Ruiz), the man who sold out Jesus Christ to the Romans, which led to the crucifixion of Christ. In a fictitious dark comedy style, the play has different interesting people come up on the podium and testify about their experiences with Judas. Depending on the person, some of the testimonies are positive and others are negative. Many of the characters are interesting because they are historical figures — such as Mother Teresa — and the Devil himself shows up to get a word in.
This play is zany, and it goes in a lot of different directions. There are some genuinely funny moments in this play, in part because of the script but also due to the playful direction. However, the play doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Does it want to be serious? Does it want to be zany and incredibly silly? The audience is left with a hodgepodge of ideas.
Watching this production was like watching two very good plays at the same time, but they weren’t necessarily connecting for me.
The set construction and the atmospheric sounds greeting you as you enter the theatre are a great touch. The set designer, Sean Smalls, does a fantastic job, and the sound design from John Hall is also high quality.
It’s a darkly lit set with a night sky in the background and stone temple backdrops.
The show is full of modern language, cussing and pop culture references along with references to biblical stories and fictional plot lines, which push the play forward.
The lawyer against Judas, Yusuf El-Fayoumy is played by Bradley Roa. He plays a greasy lawyer type with such style and brings a lot of laughs to this production. This is a quality performance, and Roa really plays up his part — a solid performance the entire show.
Simon the Zealot and his other character Sigmund Freud is adequately played by David Nelson. He spewed out rapid-fire dialogue and, from my vantage point, made a good amount of the audience crack up.
The show in general lacks cohesion — taking away from the entertainment and message of this production. If you’re patient, there are some nuggets of insight and comedy worth discovering throughout the show.
Saturday, April 6,2019 at 7:30PM, Phillips Hall Theatre
Sunday, April 7,2019 at 6:30PM, Phillips Hall Theatre