Looking for some student theater in your life? Bwog reviews the latest production from the CU Players.

Having had only a month to put the production together, the CU Players (or “CUPS,” better-known for the plastic cups handed out during the activities fair) did a more-than-credible job of mixing the Bronx with the Bible Thursday night.

It was tentative and cliched in the beginning, complete with the awkward hand gestures of nervous actors.  However as the performance went on and the audience warmed to the cast, the characters quickly fleshed out and captivated the viewer.

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot takes place in a courtroom in Purgatory.  Two lawyers battle it out to determine whether Judas, Jesus’ final betrayer, ought to be sent to Heaven.  As one theatergoer put it, the theme was a “masturbatory” nod to the Core.  Gurgis, the playwright, offers a modern interpretation of many stories related to Judas’ life that are often taken for granted. The CUPlayers production put an extra spin on that modernity, adding “urban” clothing to a play already peppered with modern obscenities and slang.

Whether by design or by direction, Last Days was more of a character sketch.  And the characters were mostly superb, even the oddly overdone (but hilarious) Saint Monica-from-the-block.  Nafkote Tamirat’s colorful El-Fayoumy, the prosecutor from Heaven, bounded across the small stage and interrogated the witnesses with infectious energy.  Her character was hindered somewhat by the accent she chose: combined with her quick tongue, many audience members had difficulty understanding what she was saying, a condition that affected several other characters as well.  The director’s choice of completely unnecessary sound effects made the listening even more difficult.

The cast was fantastic.  Morgan Childs made us shudder and pine for her supremely suave Satan, and Fergus Scully’s Pontius Pilate, delightfully New Jerseian, melted into a defensive mess under the righteousness of Cunningham (Rosie DuPont), lawyer to Judas Iscariot.  DuPont really shined in the final scenes of the play, having been rather quiet and unobtrusive for the first half, bringing a life of despair into her voice without hamming it up.  The program noted that CUPS cast seventeen actors instead of the ten that the script called for, making for a lot of down time for many actors.  One wonders whether any depth was lost this way.

In the end, it was Jesus (Ashley Butler) — humble, constant, confident — who made the audience feel the weight of the story.  The climax came quickly, almost too quickly to digest, but Butler managed to harness that energy to convey the final tones of the play.

Overall, definitely try to see it. There are performances tonight at 7PM and 10PM, and Saturday at 2PM (sold out, free) and 8PM.

Photo: “Concious, Judas” – Nikolaj Nikolajewitsch Ge – 1891