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The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (2009)

By Stephen Adly Guirgis (Canadian Premiere)
Directed by: David Ferry
Starring: Philip Akin, Aviva Armour Ostroff, Abdu Bedward, Adam Brazier, Zarrin Darnell-Martin, Ted Dykstra, Richard Greenblatt, Zorana Kydd, Diego Matamoros, Morris Panych, Louise Pitre, Janet Porter, Jamie Robinson, Shaun Smyth and Christopher Stanton.

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David Ferry - Director’s Notes

For Christ’s sake, let’s bring Omar Khadr home to Canada.

Back in 2005 I was immediately attracted to the wonderful topsy-turvy and hilarious theatricality of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Last Days of Judas Iscariot as well as to the humanity of its characters. In short order the piece began to reveal itself as, in part, a modern morality play, in part a satiric look at post 9/11 America (one of the characters refers to the “Americanization of the After-Life”) and, as The Judge reminds us, a cautionary tale for us all.

Guirgis’ sense of the absurd and his ability to make colloquial, topical and local (his world seems a totally New York universe) the historical characters he calls forth (to give witness in Fabiana Cunningham’s appeal on Judas’s behalf) makes the dance of ideas in play so accessible and entertaining. The questions he raises about the human obsession for punishment and forgiveness are universal ones. He wonders: if a child can forgive so easily why can’t an omnipotent God (or at least the Christian church)? If the Christian God is an all-forgiving God, why is Judas still in the ninth circle of hell? By extension, we might ask; “if the United States of America was founded in part on Christian principles, why is it a country so often obsessed with revenge and not so much focused on forgiveness?”

During our 2005 production looking at Last Days from a geopolitical perspective - in Pontius Pilate we saw General George Casey (David Petraeus today?). In Caiaphas the Elder we saw Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani; in Herod- Jalal Talabani? For the New Yorkers that Guirgis writes for and about, even in this allegorical piece, the new world order post 9/11 was a scary and uncertain place. Moral ambiguity was everywhere. Under the Bush/Rumsfeld/Ridge reign the “security” card trumped individual rights. For a while it seemed many Americans slept better in bed seeing hooded residents of Guantanamo Bay on CNN.

Today the world is heady with the hope of Obama and we believe that much of the paranoia of the Bush era will be dispatched with the break-up of Guantanamo. But in an America damaged by the recession and with the great failure of the economy machine of greed fostered by Bush and his cronies will the one dysfunctional system be replaced by another—this one even more protectionist and insular.

For Torontonians Last Days still offers us an opportunity to observe with a somewhat more objective eye a neighbour’s painful inner questioning while partaking in our own investigation of the issue of taking responsibility for our actions. As we deal with our own defaulting loans and collapsing companies and as we see an ever growing death toll of our own soldiers in Afghanistan can we meet the challenge of finding true forgiveness in our hearts for others and a lasting spiritual harmony within ourselves? As we near the end of the first decade of the 21st century, one certainly hopes (to quote Mr Obama) “Yes we can!”

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