Hope you caught the brief six-performance run of Birdland Theatre 's The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot ; it was one of the year's best shows. Under David Ferry 's inventive direction, the stellar cast of 15 brought great life and energy to Stephen Adly Guirgis 's script, filled with savage comedy and heartbreaking episodes. Set in a courtroom in purgatory - Glenn Davidson emphasized the hellishly mechanized feel of the Distillery's Fermenting Cellar - the piece has lawyers Cunningham ( Irene Poole ) and El-Fayoumy ( Sanjay Talwar ) arguing, respectively, for and against the innocence of Judas (an angry, hurt Garnet Harding ), Christianity's archetypal villain.
The epic, sometimes sprawling piece, with its themes of mercy, forgiveness, despair and faith, crackles with theatricality and finely written speeches. Though some of the second half is overwritten, Guirgis's work is gloriously anarchistic, with characters that include Freud ( Alon Nashman ), Mother Theresa ( Aviva Armour-Ostroff ), various saints and sinners ( Stewart Arnott , Brendan Gall , Cara Ricketts ) and, of course, Christ ( Paul Braunstein , here a saviour given janitorial duties).
There's lots of good acting, especially the nice counterpoints of Talwar's comic, ass-kissing lawyer and Poole's sharp, brittle defender, eventually stripped of her high-gloss veneer so that her pain is palpable. Frank Moore scores as the self-impressed judge and high priest Caiaphas, as do Diego Matamoros as a sardonic, dangerous Satan and Philip Akin as a responsibility-denying, American-general-style Pontius Pilate.
Definitely a show that deserves a longer life, but don't change the venue. We can't imagine the show working as well in a traditional theatre.
When we named Shakespeare in the Rough as the best outdoor Bard troupe in NOW's Best of Toronto issue, we inadvertently forgot to mention Dean Gabourie as one of the directors whose work delighted the company's audiences. Gabourie directed the 2004 vaudeville-inspired version of The Two Gentlemen Of Verona .
More Than Math
Further honours pile up for John Mighton , who last week won the Governor General's Award for drama for Half Life , which also garnered a Dora for best new play last year. If that's not enough, Mighton's also the recipient of this year's Siminovitch Prize in Theatre for his body of work. Just as admirable is the fact that Mighton, who has a PhD in math, established the JUMP program, which works with school kids to increase their math skills. When's the last time you had a math teacher who was also an award-winning playwright? Guess it's true that the two sides of the brain can be equally well developed.
The allies-all-over theatre co-op 's an enterprising group, with four productions to their credit since a debut earlier this year. Their latest, Faux Logo , written by company member Alastair Forbes and directed by Sasha Lukac , aimed for satiric, clown-based political laughs but got far too few.
Charged with murder when they take part in a bizarre reality show, personifications of CNN, Nike and Coke play out a fantasy-tinged scenario to show how they couldn't be guilty. The cast - Forbes, co-op associates Luke Davies and Kristian Bruun , as well as Lara Cotnam and Aaron Stern - threw themselves energetically into the material, but at 90 minutes the show is an overlong comedy sketch that should have been funnier.