If what Dante wrote is true, and Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus nearly 2,000 years ago, now languishes in the ninth circle of Hell, who keeps him there? The answer might surprise you.
In purgatory, a land between heaven and hell that has become a literal junkyard of discarded lives, “judgment day” is always in session. With the insistence of a couple of saints, an appeal for Judas has been put on the docket. Judas sits silently, refusing to speak in his defense. The court hears from his mother, fellow disciples and even Satan. Can even this soul be redeemed?
“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” a drama by Stephen Guirgis, is presented through Saturday in the IndyFringe Basile Theatre, 719 E. St. Clair St., Indianapolis, by the Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project.
Bill Wilkinson directs a large and well-chosen cast. Greenfield resident Carrie Fedor is solid as the determined defense attorney, trying her best to be unflappable. Her rival, an unapologetic and constant flatterer played by Ben Schuetz, provides some of the play’s much-needed levity. Former Greenfield resident Ian Cruz easily takes on two roles — mostly as the meek, overworked bailiff but also the fiery disciple, Simon the Zealot.
Story continues below gallery
Ryan Ruckman gives two brilliant performances: Primarily he is the no-nonsense judge in charge of the court, but at one point, he excuses himself to emerge as the high priest, Caiaphas. Speaking as the man who sought Jesus’ execution, he confidently presents a side of the story not easily dismissed.
Matt Roland perfectly embodies the fallen angel, Satan, with weary ennui. He sees himself not as the villain but merely the benefactor of mankind’s natural villainy and has little patience for the mortal souls around him.
Callie Burk is heartbreaking as Judas’ mother; Allyson Womack is feisty as Mother Theresa; Kristina Taylor is sassy as St. Monica; Adam Tran is straight-up gangsta as Pontius Pilate; and David Fuller shows range as a confident Sigmund Freud and a jittery St. Thomas.
Finally, even Jesus makes his appearance, portrayed convincingly by Kevin Grow.
Wilkinson even has a speaking role at the end, as a sad character whose long story has one wondering if the tale of woe has anything to do with what’s happening here until, suddenly, it does.
The novelty of the setting, with overturned junk piles and hollow cases acting as bench and courtroom furniture, along with the play’s numerous light moments, help temper a drama that asks a lot of challenging questions with only hints at possible answers.
As Easter approaches, it seems only natural that we wrestle with these issues as we consider the ramifications of Biblical events.
Seating surrounds the stage area, and the better seats are along the east and west sides of the building. A set of seats at the far end of the stage (near the entrance) has audience members mostly looking at the back of Judas’ head.
Curtain time is 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For tickets and information, go to indyfringe.org or wisdomtooththeatreproject.org.
John Belden is former arts editor of the Daily Reporter. He lives in Irvington. You can reach him at email@example.com.