Judas gets his day in court in a provocative ‘Last Days’ at Severance
By Phylisha Chaidez
Does Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus, deserve the title of the greatest sinner of them all?
Stephen Adly Guirgis’ “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” is a dark courtroom comedy that takes place in purgatory as it focuses on the trial of its title character. It includes such famous biblical figures as Jesus, Mother Teresa and Satan. The play, which opens Friday, Nov. 23, at the Severance Theatre, suggests that all these characters and more are much more complex than they seem.
Summer Session is directing the Simpson Theatricals production. She said this play will not only have the audience look at Judas differently but themselves, too.
“When you talk to people or bring up just Judas’ name with some types of people, they immediately say, ‘Oh the worst sin ever committed. Such a terrible person. He deserves to be in hell.’ What makes his sin greater than anyone else’s? Every sin is held to the same level, right? God sees every sin the same? So, if he can forgive other sins, why can’t he forgive that one?”
And, perhaps, her most provocative question: “What makes what we’re doing less bad than what someone else does?”
At the trial, the characters tell their points of view of Judas and his crime. Among the issues: Judas did not know Jesus was going to be crucified. And why are the people directly responsible for the crucifixion, Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas, not in hell?
“So many people in the Bible and so many characters in this play were not great people,” Session said, “They did terrible things but they were able to forgive themselves, and that’s the reason that they could live a happy life in heaven.”
The playwright made it a point to not paint Judas as completely innocent or guilty. He simply wanted to present the information, allow the audience to look at things differently, and make their own decision, Session said.
Many of the actors in “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” play two different characters. Session said that when assigning characters she wanted to make sure that for those actors playing two characters, they were playing someone for and against Judas. She did this so that her actors could adequately see both sides of the story.
Session did not grow up in a religious household. She does believe in God but doesn’t belong to one denomination because, in her eyes, the Bible is open to interpretation. She lives her life the way she believes God would want her to live.
Though the play is based on a religious tale and contains religious characters, Session made it clear that the play is for everyone, religious or not. It focuses on the themes of forgiveness, despair and perception.
“People can take all kinds of things away from this play,” she said. “They can understand it and think about their life in a completely different way that doesn’t have to be through religion. Just thinking about what they’re doing as a person, and what they’ve done as a person, and whether or not they forgive themselves.”
Author Phylisha Chaidez is a Fresno State student in the Media, Communications and Journalism department. She wrote this story for Donald Munro’s MCJ10 class.