According to the New Testament, Judas Iscariot was the disciple who betrayed Jesus of Nazareth with a kiss for 30 silver pieces. Imagine that after nearly two millennia of languishing in his own personal hell, Judas is brought to a courtroom in purgatory for a possible pardon. What would that mean for religious history and how we view the world today?

Mad Horse Theatre Company upends established beliefs with Stephen Adly Guirgis’ smart, sassy and irreverent play “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.”

The production tests the boundaries of knowledge and belief in a way that will undoubtedly offend some as sacrilegious blasphemy. After all, Saint Monica (Erica Murphy) – mother of Saint Augustine – is portrayed as a ghetto-talking valley girl, and Pontius Pilate (Caleb Aaron Coulthard) is a mob boss. Even Mother Teresa’s (Tootie Van Reenen) holiness is questioned with a hard-nosed look at her donors that draws unspoken comparisons to politics of today.

Mad Horse has never shied away from the controversial. Under the direction of Stacey Koloski, the cast embraces the wit and poignancy of “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” challenging the audience’s perception of religious and historical figures. Some are amusingly called as witnesses at the trial. Others are cleverly referenced in the play. Benedict Arnold’s case is thrown out by Judge Littlefield (Burke Brimmer) before Judas’ trial, and Bathsheba owns the bar and grill that Judas goes to after the betrayal of Jesus.

It’s nearly impossible to catch all the references interwoven into the play. Secular and nonsecular theatergoers alike can appreciate the word play, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to know both history and the Bible.

The cast is sharp-witted and quick on its feet, making the audience laugh and feel. Janice Gardner and Mark Rubin are fantastic as Fabiana Aziza Cunningham and Yusef El-Fayoumy, opposing counsel that couldn’t be any more different. Rubin is an endless source of laughter, playing up his character’s ignorance and over-the-top brown-nosing. In contrast, Gardner’s character is a smart, passionate defense attorney who asks the tough questions.

During the course of the trial, the audience meets a multitude of colorful characters, including Gloria the angel (Marie Stewart Harmon), Caiaphas (Brimmer), Doubting Thomas (Mandela Gardner), Simon the Zealot (Khalil LeSaldo), Satan (Brent Askari), Sigmund Freud (Tony Reilly) and the court bailiff (Sean Senior). Each serves to illuminate and question history, all the while drawing underlying parallels to current times.

Throughout, Jesus (Jason LeSaldo) vigilantly watches from the wings while Judas (Nick Schroeder) sits catatonic in the court. Schroeder is a marvel to watch as he slips out of catatonia to reenact scenes from Judas’ past, including an impressive portrayal of Judas as an 8-year-old boy.

Jody McColman plays one of the jurors, Butch Honeywell, offering an eye-opening correlation between Judas’ betrayal and his character’s infidelity.

Be forewarned that “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” is an epic production, clocking in at nearly three hours. For the bulk of the play, the hard-hitting lessons are tempered by humor, but the play is book-ended with sobering sincerity. It opens with a poignant lament by Christine Louise Marshall as Judas’ mother, Henrietta, and does a startling 360 for the last part, driving home its ultimate message about the power of forgiveness and the will to accept it.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

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