Before watching The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, I had limited knowledge about Judas. My only recollection was that he was the one responsible for betraying Jesus, as mentioned in the Bible during my CCD classes as a child.
However, after witnessing the play, my understanding of Judas and his life improved. I realized that I had not fully grasped his intimate bond with Jesus; I merely knew that he was chosen as one of the twelve disciples. Mary Magdalene, who appears in the play, explains that Jesus had a closer connection with Judas and herself compared to the other disciples.
I was surprised when she described their relationship as Judas being Jesus’ “almost an alter-ego – the shadow to Jesus’ light. He was the sour to the sweet and the cool to the warm.” At first, I only knew him as the one who handed Jesus over to the Jews, but I didn’t realize his reaction and struggle after Jesus’ death. It seemed like Jesus believed in Judas, even after his betrayal, even though Judas didn’t believe in himself or in Jesus’ forgiveness. I was shocked to hear the story of Judas sharing his spinning top with another child.
Before hearing his mother’s story during his trial, I viewed Judas as a heartless person due to his betrayal of Jesus. However, her account evoked a sense of compassion within me for him. In terms of Mary Magdalene, her portrayal aligned with my perception of her. Contrary to popular belief that she was Jesus’ wife or lover, she described herself as his best friend. Additionally, she mentioned their shared enjoyable experiences and subtly hinted at a special connection between them.
It appeared that they were more than just friends, although they never explicitly stated their interest in each other. I didn’t have much knowledge about Saint Monica before watching the play, but afterwards, I researched and discovered that she was the Saint of Married Women and the mother of Saint Augustine. The depictions and narratives I came across while studying her did not align with the portrayal of Saint Monica in the play. Like many others, I had always considered saints to be well-mannered and composed, but the Saint Monica in the play defied that perception.
It was not offensive, but it did shock me. She appeared trashy, loud, obnoxious, and immature. I was initially perplexed about why she was the one to visit Judas. However, after researching and talking to my father, I discovered that she was also the patron saint for disappointed or troubled children, like Judas. I also appreciated the idea that she and Mary were friends who knew each other. It gave the impression that everyone in heaven or hell has the opportunity to meet and form friendships. I particularly liked Satan’s portrayal. His personality, clothing, and persona seemed extremely accurate to me.
Despite my preconceived notion of Satan as a relaxed and carefree individual, his gait and body movements aligned perfectly with the personality I had imagined. Nonetheless, I was taken aback when he professed his love for God and disproved common assumptions by stating that he did not harbor any hatred towards Him. This aspect piqued my curiosity since I had always believed them to be eternal adversaries. Conversely, Satan appeared comparatively amiable compared to my initial expectations. Despite his renowned title as the “Prince of Darkness,” I anticipated him to utilize curses, shouts, and wicked laughter more frequently throughout the play.
An energy shift took place when Satan entered the room, amplifying the atmosphere with red lights on stage for a more sinister ambiance. The play delved into various themes, prominently highlighting betrayal and punishment. Not only was Judas’ betrayal of Jesus examined, but also that of Butch Honeywell, a character involved in multiple affairs. As the play drew to a close, Butch delivered a powerful monologue emphasizing that betrayal is unforgivable, irrespective of one’s identity or actions. One of his unforgettable lines being “You cashed in silver, Mr.”
Iscariot, but me? I discarded precious treasure. ” Butch draws a parallel between himself and Judas, arguing that his betrayal towards his wife is on par with Judas’ betrayal towards Jesus. Moreover, the trial delves into the ongoing debate of destiny versus free will. This theme is explored through various witnesses, including Freud and Satan. Freud is interrogated regarding the idea that individuals might lack agency over their actions. It raises the question of whether people’s lives are predetermined from birth, with no ability to control the outcome regardless of their life experiences.
Freud suggests that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus can be attributed to his psychological instability and lack of control. The role of Satan, traditionally linked to tempting Eve with the apple, is also a matter of debate. Some argue that Satan’s purpose was to grant humans the ability to make choices between good and evil. Moreover, the play prompts inquiries about the existence of God. If such a tragic occurrence could happen to God’s son, does it imply that God truly exists? Conversely, some individuals believe this event was part of God’s predestined plan to establish Christianity.
Henrietta Iscariot, the grieving mother of Judas, expresses her uncertainty about God in the play by stating that “the world tells me that God is in heaven and my son is in hell. I tell the world the one true thing I know; if my son is in hell, then there is no heaven – because if my son sits in hell, there is no God.”
In contrast, Mother Teresa maintains her belief in God’s existence despite not everyone sharing this belief, similar to free will. She believes that it is up to individuals to either follow Him or make their own choices, as she believes God offers guidance. Ultimately, the decision rests solely with them.
The main theme of the play centered on the blame and accountability for Jesus’ death: was it solely Judas’ fault or did Satan play a role in influencing him? Perhaps it was all part of a predetermined fate for Jesus and Judas, intended to establish a new religion and belief in God. Given that the play revolved around various arguments, using a courtroom setting appeared appropriate. This setting allowed for easier expression of the diverse thoughts and perspectives regarding Judas Iscariot’s betrayal.
The clock always displaying 12:00 puzzled me. Perhaps it represented time standing still in purgatory, if not, I couldn’t fathom its purpose. Moreover, I would have preferred Judas to be seated closer to the audience during the trial since he was the central figure. However, he was positioned at the back. On a positive note, the costumes aptly depicted each character’s image. The lawyers were dressed in business attire as expected of professionals.
Cunningham’s hair was tightly pulled back, showcasing her professionalism and aloof personality. She dressed immaculately, wearing a pencil skirt to subtly convey a hint of sexuality that caught El-Fayoumy’s attention. The Judge also adhered to proper attire, donning the customary robe and glasses that suggested intelligence. Mother Teresa stood out in her recognizable white robe adorned with blue lines. Although Jesus’ costume represented a somewhat authentic depiction of him, with a white unbuttoned shirt, khaki pants, facial hair, and bare feet.
In general, the characters in the play were portrayed accurately. Nevertheless, I would have liked to see the protagonist wearing a white tunic instead of a button-up shirt. Despite this preference, the depiction was accurate. Mary Magdalene’s clothing presented her as youthful and pure, which contradicts some debates about her real character. Furthermore, Sigmund Freud’s outfit effectively presented him as an intelligent scientist. He wore the customary light-colored suit commonly associated with professors or scientists, along with glasses. Additionally, he had his distinctive longer hair and facial hair.
Pontius Pilate, dressed in a stylish three-piece suit, emitted an atmosphere of triumph and haughtiness with his flawless stance. His neatly trimmed hair and smooth-shaven face further emphasized this impression of wealth. Conversely, I found Saint Monica’s outfit puzzling, reminiscent of the 1980s. Her large, voluminous hair, chewing gum, denim jacket, and sneakers matched her character’s demeanor but left me unsure about my perception of her portrayal.
Satan was dressed exactly how I had imagined he would appear in modern times. He had on a half-tucked, half-buttoned button up tuxedo shirt, a velvet jacket, and eye-catching bright red socks symbolizing the devil’s color. His hair was gelled in specific areas to mimic the shape of two horns on top of his head. Furthermore, every time he entered the play, the lighting would shift to a vivid red, effectively creating an infernal and fiery atmosphere.
In my opinion, the play’s script, production, and direction were innovative. It offered a fresh interpretation of biblical stories and allowed the audience to connect with unexpected characters. The themes were presented in a courtroom-like setting, stimulating discussion among viewers. The actors effectively conveyed the emotions and narratives of each character, enabling the audience to reflect on their personal beliefs, including their stance on fate or free will, Heaven and Hell, and accountability for wrongdoings.