With a text as old and open to interpretation as the Bible, it’s no surprise to see thousands of renditions of the stories. One such retelling of a usually dismissed character is “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” a play that aims to give a closer look at the great betrayer, the one who committed the unforgiveable sin.
Castleton’s rendition featured some strong acting despite regional obstacles, and the unique set design fueled the overall attitude of despair laced with humor. Several actors stole the show, the most flamboyant of whom being Meghan Hakey as St. Monica, who donned a tu-tu and high-tops to complement her ghetto-fab dialect for the part. She had the entire audience rolling with perfect deliverance of lines like “C’mon Judas, want to go betray some motherfuckers?” that never felt forced. Unfortunately the natural acting wasn’t universal, and some roles suffered as a result of feeling too forced or too static. That happens when Vermont students adopt inner-city dialects; chances are it won’t go off without a hitch.
Jeff Blanchette and Chelsea Smith were the lead roles, and did an excellent job bringing life and depth to their characters. As prosecutor and defense attorney respectively, they were foils to each other throughout and Blanchette’s exuberance nicely complemented Smith’s more composed demeanor. Smith did an excellent job of phasing out her confidence for the underlying desperation later in the play. Rob Valenti also delivered as Satan, the smooth-talker who made everything sound good when he wanted but who would turn on you in an instant if things weren’t going his way. His lines were delivered the most fluidly of all, despite his limited appearance in the show.
Throughout the play, hints were dropped at threads of secondary plots involving the lives of the two attorneys, and the hinting began to crescendo in one scene after the intermission. Just when the plot began to break through and show the defense attorney becoming more concerned with having her questions of faith resolved than with saving Judas-strangely enough through an exchange with Satan-the courtroom scene came to a screeching halt and the play dropped off the map into an agonizing couple monologues and ended with no resolution. The characters the play initially revolved around had been genuinely interesting, and absolutely nothing ended up being done with them. Two-and-a-half hours had been spent by the audience investing in characters that, by the end, ended up being completely insignificant; this came as a slap in the face in the form of an exchange between Judas and Jesus that consisted of “Go the fuck away” and “Love me,” respectively.
In short, it was like a really high roller coaster where excitement for the first drop is building-for two hours-and right when you get to the top, it breaks down and you have to walk down the stairs, led by an old guy who stops every 10 feet to turn around and tell you some of his life story. Maybe it was the writing or maybe it was the directing-it’s hard to tell based on only one rendition. All that’s clear is that the play turned from a 4.5 star rating to a 3 at best just because what was previously enthralling became so excruciating.