Is Judas cool enough to play lead?

Is Judas cool enough to play lead?

Jay Pyette

March 10, 2017, by Paul Dragu, Havre Daily News

In Havre we have Montana Actors’ Theatre, and for a town with a 100-mile buffer zone from the side effects of civilization, we’re fortunate to have any theater, much less good theater. If someone — anyone — would open a restaurant that serves something other than sandwiches and pizza, we’d be in prairie paradise.

In high school, I took one semester of theater. I can’t tell you the horrors of standing on a stage — in front of other people, saying words and stuff.

Once, long ago, someone pointed a gun and threatened to shoot me and my friends because one of my friends tried to pick up the gunman’s girlfriend while we waited for our Taco Bell meal to be finished and bagged. After realizing the uphill battle in getting away with shooting someone in a well-lit parking lot that just so happened to have a drive-through snaked around the building with witnesses, he waited for me to drive away before chasing us on the adjacent highway.

I recklessly bobbed and weaved through traffic in my silver Thunderbird, the Silver Bullet, to avoid being cornered in a dark alley and be sent to Heaven early. It was the one time in my life I hoped Atlanta’s finest would catch me speeding, yet they were nowhere to be found. The Silver Bullet eventually prevailed and here I am, still in between Heaven and Hell, telling the story.

All that to say that reading a monologue in front of 25 pimply ninth-graders on the tail end of puberty was scarier than evading a crazed thug.

I saw “Jesus Christ Superstar” opening night, Friday.

I dig the performing arts. Stories are powerful and they can subtly shape and change how we think. Stories can be sneaky.

The moment the doors of Northern’s Little Theater opened, the sound of rock ’n’ roll pervaded my ears. Deep Purple’s “Woman from Tokyo” was coming out of the theater speakers, followed by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin hits.

The play began after the director asked us if we were ready to rock ’n’ roll. Everyone clapped and hollered, assuring him we were, indeed, ready to rock ’n’ roll.

Jesus, in white pants and a Hawaiian shirt, and Judas, wearing red linen pants and a red hippy-like blouse, are the first characters we meet. Both play guitar and have beards, although Jesus’ was shaggier and bigger, Judas’ a bit more manicured — the beards, not the guitars. Perhaps relieved from the concerns of humanity’s sins left Judas with more hygiene time.

A large crowd that looks like it just got out of a Grateful Dead concert soon erupts from backstage, filling every crevice of the stage. The crowd sings and dances, and even the follower in camo toting an AK-47 — who did not look like a Dead head —  is having a good time around Jesus. The people soon envelop Jesus, who begins to crowd surf. Meanwhile, Judas is in the back, with his arms crossed, sulking.

“All I ask is that you listen to me,” Judas sings after taking front stage, ripping solos on an aptly chosen double horn-tipped Gibson SG in between words. “Listen to me,” he repeats, his high, nasal, but fitting, voice resonating in the theater.

The play had many highlights, the most glaring probably Herod’s one and only performance, “King Herod’s Song (Try it and See).”

MAT’s Herod had a large afro, wore glitter and gold-framed sunglasses, and like many of the men in the play, he too, was wearing bell bottoms. But unlike the others, his bell-bottoms touched on tall, white platforms stolen from the set of “Saturday Night Fever.” Between the afro and the platforms, Studio 54 Herod must’ve rose a foot in height. Herod sang and danced, bopped his hips and protruding jelly belly from side to side, with a line of 1920’s flapper girls, clad in white, accompanying him in the background, also bopping side to side.

The aforementioned AK-47 totin’ Simon Zealotes also rose to the occasion.  Played by Aylan Pratt, Zealotes, after his song, flipped and cartwheeled off the stage and into the theater — just because he could. Anyone who does a double flip off a stage deserves to be recognized. Go Aylan!

Mary Magdalene was probably the best singer. And Pilate, whose towering and eye-lined presence was a fitting portrayal of his character, was also very good.

I only have one beef. It has less to do with MAT’s performance and more with the idea that the uncoolest of Jesus’ disciples is a hero.

When Mary uses the expensive oil to wash Jesus’ feet, it’s Judas who gets all greedy and whiny and suggests the oil be sold and the money put in the treasury, which he was in charge of. In the play, when everyone is having fun, Judas is not. Judas never has any fun. And, of course, it’s Judas who betrays Jesus, once again, for money.

Whichever way you hang it, Judas is not cool. He’s not even a Tony Montana, postmodern-type, anti-hero. He’s a jealous whiner who can easily be the aspiring Gordon Gekko of Jesus’ rag tag crew.

But that’s just my take and up to the audience to see the play and decide for themselves.

Is Judas cool enough to play lead?

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