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Ian Thal

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Letter to the Editor: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
By Ian Thal   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, January 18, 2010
Posted: Wednesday, January 03, 2007

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Boston's Weekly Dig, an alternative tabloid which boasts a comics section that never fails to amuse me, deigned to give my letter, in which I take their theatre critic to task, a full third of this week's letters column, but not without adding the following headline:

Every point made in a play must be countered by an opposing point consisting of exactly as many words and spoken at a comparable volume. Only that way will theatre come alive again. Dear Dig, I wonder by what criteria Jenna Scherer selected to include The Last Days of Judas Iscariot as part of her roundup of the year's best theatre (12.20.06). While I confess that Stephen Adly Guirgis has a gift for writing dialogue that led to excellent performances by some of Company One's better actors, Guirgis's overall sloppiness placed it close to the bottom of my list for 2006. Numerous scenes were completely irrelevant to the courtroom drama. Lengthy monologues by characters that appear nowhere else in the story implied that Guirgis either had not finished writing the play before opening night, or that he was simply trying to give some of the actors something to do instead of sitting backstage for over an hour. The ending, to the extent there was one, demonstrated that Guirgis was unable to handle any of the cans of worms that he himself had opened. Leaving aside the structural problems, the second half of the play repeats again and again the old anti-Semitic canard that the Jews are the ones who murdered Jesus (a central theme of the Passion plays, and Mel Gibson's film version). Pontius Pilate even makes a point that he had washed his hands of the affair, and is a saint in the Ethiopian Church. It is not wrong for a writer to create anti-Semitic characters, but to leave their statements un-countered is highly questionable. The Last Days of Judas Iscariot also has countless moments of misogyny to which there is never any rebuttal. How does a male witness sexually harass a female defense attorney with impunity? Or a male prosecuting attorney sexually harass a female witness? Guirgis seems to like his female characters neatly classified as mothers, whores and nuns, and he appears to take pleasure in humiliating the mothers and the whores. Guirgis does a great job writing for the mafia characters on HBO's The Sopranos, but theology is well beyond his abilities, as is anything whose form demands that the plot threads be tied up by the end of the evening. Does Jenna Scherer pay any attention to the writing? Ian Thal Somerville, MA  

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