THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT

After walking past a gaggle of low-life street denizens to reach the entrance, you enter the theater through the lobby of the Alexandria, a once-glamorous transient hotel. A creaky elevator takes you (slowly) to the third floor, where you walk across a balcony overlooking what was once the hotel ballroom, but which now looks like a ghostly volleyball court surrounded by tarnished mirrors and faded reliefs. Could there be a better lead-up to a play set in Purgatory? And here’s the punch line: the production is BRILLIANT! In this small but creatively explosive space, 22 actors (all of them good, many of them quite wonderful) serve up a courtroom drama in which Judas is put on trial for the crimes of betrayal and despair. Part Perry Mason, part Sunday school lesson, part intellectual debate, part laugh-out-loud comedy, this is a show that lasts almost three hours — and only lags toward the end, when the author appends a defining parable that may be one scene too many. The troupe is called Company of Angels, and truly, they are heaven-sent. — Jeff Schultz

VIEUX CARRE

This was one of Tennessee Williams' last plays, and it was an atomic
flop in 1977. Now, a fresh stab at it from the respected theatrical
company known as The Wooster Group — which has a reputation for
deconstructing “classics”, blowing them up and putting the pieces back
together not quite as their authors conceived them. That's putting it
mildly. As newly presented at REDCAT, images on multiple video screens
accompany the actors on stage. Sometimes the screens play an actual
“role”: there are scenes where the dialogue goes back and forth
between them, But sometimes, too, the screens will morph into hard-
core pornography to further illustrate the all-but-explicit actual sex
act going on simultaneously on stage. The actors speak Williams'
dialogue mostly as written, but with never-intended deliveries (the
black maid in the original, for example, talks with exaggerated Valley
Girl inflections). Confused? I swam blindly through most of it, not
having ever seen the play done “straight”. Because so much of it deals
with the central character's struggle with coming out, it gives off a
moldy whiff, no matter how radical the staging. And the actors just
aren't compelling. You don't know if they're so flat because they're
mediocre — or if they're being “experimental”. — Jeff Schultz