Judas on trial! Yes, in playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis' courtroom drama, the man who double-crossed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver is tried for his treachery, with the case being heard in a magical courtroom somewhere in Purgatory. Fiery defense attorney Fabiana (Sarah Ruth Ryan), a recently deceased modern gal, seeks to get Judas (a nicely brooding Robert Walters) released from hell and takes it to the celestial court. Oily, vaguely sinister Prosecutor Yusef (Robert Paterno) summons a variety of witnesses to testify against Judas' redemption, but in the end, guilt or innocence actually resides in a desperate, and beautifully tragic, interaction between Judas and Jesus. Guirgis' text provides an often engaging exploration of all sides of the drama's theological issues, but the real pleasures are found in director Josh T. Ryan's vibrant, fast-paced production (a redo of the same producer's spring staging of the same play, at Victory Theatre). Lively and wonderfully multidimensional performances leaven the potentially dry aspects of the religious debate. Ruth Ryan's ferocious defense attorney and Paterno's increasingly haunted prosecutor are particularly adroit acting turns, but it's the impeccable comic timing and emotionally sophisticated work by Robin Michelle McClamb's wonderfully dotty yet theologically rigid Mother Teresa, Marc Erickson's terrifying Satan and Walters' inscrutable Judas that anchor the show. Hudson Backstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Aug. 24. (323) 960-7738, plays411.com/judas.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: July 19. Continues through Aug. 24, 2013
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