Guirgis sets his play in a Purgatory courtroom presided over by a disgraced Civil War veteran. The case is argued by an obsequious prosecutor and an agnostic defense attorney who has won writs from both St. Peter and God himself to continue the appeal. At stake is the soul of the Bible's Benedict Arnold, who has been reduced to a catatonic state, unable or unwilling to communicate.
"Judas" marshals a parade of witnesses, from Satan (played by Eric Bogosian) to Mary Magdalene, Mother Teresa, and Pontius Pilate, many of whom speak in the contemporary parlance of the urban street. The strongest defense of Judas (played by Sam Rockwell) comes from fellow disciple Simon the Zealot, who proffers the theory that Judas handed Jesus over to the chief priests in order "to throw Jesus into the deep end of the pool." By forcing Jesus' hand, the theory goes, he "would have to act," thus sparking a revolution against the cruel Roman occupation of the Jewish homeland.
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