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Sympathy for the devil?

Long-but-rich ‘Judas’ is bold, provocative



The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, gay news, Washington Blade
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, gay news, Washington Blade

The cast of ‘The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.’ (Photo by Melissa Blackall; courtesy Round House)

‘The Last Days of Judas Iscariot’

Through June 14

Forum Theatre

Round House Theatre Silver Spring

8641 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD



Judas Iscariot: a name synonymous with betrayal.

Judas, of course, was the disciple who sold out Christ for 30 pieces of silver. Whether he did it for the cash or because he wanted to set off a rebellion against the occupying Roman army is debatable. Either way, he’s never been a popular guy.

In Stephen Adly Guirgis’ darkly comic “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” (now at Forum Theatre), the follower-turned-traitor’s motives, character and possibilities of redemption are all put on trial. Set in a corner of purgatory called Hope, the proceedings are presided over by bigoted Judge Littlefield (Brian Hemmingsen) assisted by his callow bailiff (Thony Mena). The action pits tough and sexy Fabiana Aziza Cunningham (Julie Garner), a non-believing defense attorney who’s arguing that god’s mercy mandates her client’s release from eternal damnation, against oily prosecuting attorney Yusef El-Fayoumy (Scott McCormick) whom the judge simply addresses as Mr. El Fajita. The colorful litany of witnesses — a veritable who’s who of Biblical and historical types — include Mary Magdalene (Nora Achrati), Saint Peter (Eric Porter), a naughty Mother Teresa (Achrati again), Saint Monica from the hood (Alina Collins Maldonado) and a self-satisfied Sigmund Freud (Jesse Terrill).

Throughout the play, Judas (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) lies catatonic center stage on a raised circular platform. Occasionally he rouses for flashbacks, showing him as a young and impetuous idealist on the playground and later as an embittered adult at Bathsheba’s Bar & Grill where a remorseful and very drunk Judas runs into Satan: “You wanna play the lute, sing Mary-Chapin Carpenter, that’s what heaven’s for,” warns the Gucci-clad prince of darkness. “You wanna rock? Hell’s the venue.”

At three hours, “Judas Iscariot” is long, but never dull. The script is all over the place moving from corny exchanges to raw humor to darker places. Fortunately the superb and diverse cast of local actors is more than up for it. Boldly staged by Vreeke, who’s gay, this production is a reprise of Forum’s fantastic “Judas Iscariot” from six years ago that was mounted at the now-shuttered H Street Playhouse. This time around, the venue has changed — Forum’s home at Round House Silver Spring’s large and chilly black box space (take a sweater) — but the production remains equally compelling.

Along with talented director Vreeke, many of the production’s original cast returned. Patrick Bussink makes a memorable cameo as a casual and quiet Jesus of Nazareth. Again, Jim Jorgensen plays Satan — happily hung over and deliciously evil. Frank Britton is back too as a badass, street smart Pontius Pilate who refuses to take the blame for just doing his job. (Britton was mugged and badly beaten by four men near the Silver Spring Metro Station after Monday night’s opening. He’s expected to return to the part soon.)

As with Guirgis’ other plays like “Our Lady of 121st Street,” “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train” and “The Motherfucker with the Hat,” “Judas Iscariot” plumbs meaning from losers’ lives and gives a spot-on portraiture of urban street life. The humor is irreverent and the characters are delightfully foulmouthed. Yet, the work’s deeper meaning is never lost. There are quiet, moving moments too: the show opens with Judas’ sorrowful mother Henrietta (Annie Houston) recounting how she buried her son alone. Later Butch Honeywell (Frank B. Moorman), a Joe Six-pack with a bent for poetry, mourns not having been the husband and father he might have been. Like Judas Iscariot, his sadness comes from not being able to change what’s already been done.



An exciting revival of ‘Evita’ at Shakespeare Theatre

Out actor Caesar Samayoa on portraying iconic role of President Perón



Caesar Samayoa (center) and the cast of ‘Evita’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company. (Photo by DJ Corey Photography) 

Through Oct. 15
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Harman Hall
610 F St., N.W.

When Eva Perón died of cancer at 33 in 1952, the people’s reaction was so intense that Argentina literally ran out of cut flowers. Mourners were forced to fly in stems from neighboring countries, explains out actor Caesar Samayoa. 

For Samayoa, playing President Perón to Shireen Pimental’s First Lady Eva in director Sammi Cannold’s exciting revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” at Shakespeare Theatre Company is a dream fulfilled. 

As a Guatemalan-American kid, he had a foot in two worlds. Samayoa lived and went to school in suburban Emerson, N.J. But he spent evenings working at his parents’ botanica in Spanish Harlem. 

During the drives back and forth in the family station wagon, he remembers listening to “Evita” on his cassette player: “It’s the first cast album I remember really hearing and understanding. I longed to be in the show.”

As an undergrad, he transferred from Bucknell University where he studied Japanese international relations to a drama major at Ithica College. His first professional gig was in 1997 playing Juliet in Joe Calarco’s off-Broadway “Shakespeare’s R&J.” Lots of Broadway work followed including “Sister Act,” “The Pee-Wee Herman Show,” and most significantly, Samayoa says, “Come From Away,” a musical telling of the true story of airline passengers stranded in Gander, Newfoundland during 9/11. He played Kevin J. (one half of a gay couple) and Ali, a Muslim chef.  

He adds “Evita” has proved a powerful experience too: “We’re portraying a populist power couple that changed the trajectory of a country in a way most Americans can’t fully understand. And doing it in Washington surrounded by government and politics is extra exciting.” 

WASHINGTON BLADE: How do you tap into a real-life character like Perón?

CAESAR SAMAYOA: Fortunately, Sammi [Connald] and I work similarly. With real persons and situations, I immerse myself into history, almost to a ridiculous extent. 

First day in the rehearsal room, we were inundated with artifacts. Sammi has been to Argentina several times and interviewed heavily with people involved in Eva and Peron’s lives. Throughout the process we’d sit and talk about the real history that happened. We went down the rabbit hole.

Sammi’s interviews included time with Eva’s nurse who was at her bedside when she died. We watched videos of those interviews. They’ve been an integral part of our production. 

BLADE: Were you surprised by anything you learned?

SAMAYOA: Usually, Eva and Perón’s relationship is portrayed as purely transactional.  They wrote love letters and I had access to those. At their country home, they’d be in pajamas and walk on the beach; that part of their life was playful and informal. They were a political couple but they were deeply in love too. I latched on to that. 

BLADE: And anything about the man specifically? 

SAMAYOA:  Perón’s charisma was brought to the forefront. In shows I’ve done, some big names have attended. Obama. Clinton. Justin Trudeau came to “Come From Away.” Within seconds, the charisma makes you give into that person. I’ve tried to use that.  

BLADE: And the part? 

SAMAYOA: Perón is said to be underwritten. But I love his power and the songs he sings [“The Art of the Possible,” “She is a Diamond,” etc.]. I’m fully a baritone and to find that kind of role in a modern musical is nearly impossible. And in this rock opera, I can use it to the full extent and feel great about it.

BLADE: “Evita” is a co-production with A.R.T. Has it changed since premiering in Boston? 

SAMAYOA: Yes, it has. In fact, 48 hours before opening night in Washington, we made some changes and they’ve really landed. Without giving too much away, we gave it more gravity in reality of time as well as Eva’s sickness and the rapid deterioration. It’s given our second act a huge kind of engine that it didn’t have. 

BLADE: You’re married to talent agent Christopher Freer and you’re very open. Was it always that way for you?

SAMAYOA: When I started acting professionally, it was a very different industry. We were encouraged to stay in the closet or it will cast only in a certain part. There was truth in that. There still is some truth in that, but I refuse to go down that road. I can’t reach what I need to reach unless I’m my most honest self. I can’t do it any other way.

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Out & About

HRC’s National Dinner is back

LGBTQ rights organization’s annual gala features Rhimes, Waithe, Bomer



Actor Matt Bomer will be honored at the HRC National Dinner.

The Human Rights Campaign will host its annual National Dinner on Saturday, Oct. 14 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The dinner’s honorees include world-famous producers, actors and entertainers whose work spotlights the fight for civil rights and social justice, including Shonda Rhimes, Lena Waithe and Matt Bomer.

A new event, as part of the weekend, — the Equality Convention — will take place the night before the dinner on Friday, Oct. 13. The convention will showcase the power of the LGBTQ equality movement, feature influential political and cultural voices, and bring together volunteer and movement leaders from across the country to talk about the path ahead.
For more details about the weekend, visit HRC’s website.

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Out & About

MLK Library to spotlight queer Asian writer

Trung Nguyen’s ‘The Magic Fish’ explored



The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will host “A Conversation with Trung Nguyen, Novelist” on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m.

Nguyen’s book, “The Magic Fish” explores the LGBTQ experience and dives deep into Asian heritage and culture. United States Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius will attend the event and introduce Nguyen.

Admission is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

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