Comment: Judas NOIR

by Lynn on October 19, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

l-rDerick Agyemang, Chelsea Russell
photo: Cesar Ghisilieri


At the Streetcar Crow’s Nest at Carlaw and Dundas, Toronto, Ont.

Adaptation of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Adaptation and direction by Leighton Alexander Williams

Set, props and costumes by Julia Kim

Lighting by Logan Cracknell

Choreography by Christopher Clarke

Fight choreography by Phi Huynh

Cast: Derick Agyemang

Andrea Carter

Franckie Francois

Emmanuel Ofori

Demi Oliver

Alicia Richardson

Ryan Rosery

Chelsea Russell

Adrian Walters

Leighton Alexander Williams

A big, bold, sprawling mess of a play and production, and I mean that in a positive way, that explores the black experience using the Jewish experience as a framework and going further.

The Story. Judas Iscariot is on trial for betraying Jesus, his mentor and friend. His mother speaks passionately and glowingly of her devoted son, who might have had a weak moment. His lawyer tries to defend him but the impatient judge dismisses her. The obsequious prosecutor, who seems a bit shaky on the law, is on the other side. Satan and his followers arrive with their take.

The Production. A beautiful gospel hymn is sung in the dark—beautiful harmonies, but I wish I could see the choir (director Leighton Alexander Williams has his reasons for us not seeing the choir, fair enough). Then the choir disperses in the dark and the lights go up on a raised dais stage right (for me) with a barefoot man sitting in a chair head down, eyes closed, wearing a creme coloured shirt and pants. stage left. An imposing, serious judge takes his place.

I’m in the second row. A man in front of me is reading a book when the play begins. Do I tell him to put it down cause it’s rude? No. A woman directly opposite is writing constantly in the beginning of the first scene. Are you reviewing it, I wonder; I have some scribbling brethren who write all the time while the play is progressing—have you seen anything???? I want to ask her? Then the guy in front of me leans down to under his seat and brings out a ceramic coffee cup and takes a swig. AHHHH I get it. The people across the way see the title of his book. I have to wait until he puts it under his chair—“Law School for Dummies”. He is the ‘lawyer for the prosecution.’ The scribbling woman is the lawyer for the defense. The judge doesn’t like her and gives her a hard time. I stop thinking rude thoughts about a clod of an audience member who is actually in the cast.

The court is wild with zipping dialogue. Satan is called to testify. He is one striking fellah (Leighton Alexander Williams doing triple duty besides directing and adapting.) His eyes are soft and gentle, the red streaks across his forehead suggest another kind of personality characteristic—‘back off and don’t mess with me.”  He is seductive, has the most incredible body language that can strike terror in anyone and bend backwards suggesting that limbo dancing is his forte.

There is an orgy of sorts complete with sprays of white mist, rock music, drinking, fuzzy brains and debauchery. Leighton Alexander Williams’ staging is impressive because he negotiates the cast of ten around the space with ease and confidence. And his direction is bold and fearless as well. Christopher Clarke’s aggressive choreography is compelling.

Many of the cast have spent much of their time doing film and television and little theatre. Again, this is a bold effort with some making their theatrical debut.

Comment. Obsidian Theatre Company whose mandate is to tell stories of the black Diaspora has established an initiative called “Darktown” “to help develop and provide opportunities for theatre artists. Judas NOIR is part of that initiative and because the piece is part of development, I’m commenting and not really reviewing. What a great initiative. Don’t be put off by the word ‘mess’. Some desserts are called ‘mess’ and they are delicious despite the name.  I’m glad I saw Judas NOIR.

Obsidian Theatre’s Darktown presents BDB Productions:

From: Oct. 12, 2018.

Closes: Oct. 20, 2018.

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