An encore presentation of “Judgement Day” will be streaming starting on July 26, 2021 and running through August 1, 2021. The proceeds benefit the Barrington Stage Company, an award-winning theatre located in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The play was written by Rob Ulin and directed by Matthew Penn. The virtual reading of this “irreverent comedy” is performed by an all-star cast of familiar faces.
The final ruling on ‘Judgement Day’ is it is well worth seeing…In this production, you can catch some fine acting and have a few good laughs while you ponder the greater questions about life.
In this dark comedy, Ulin asks questions about faith, heaven, and God. The protagonist is an unlikable lawyer named Sammy Capo (Jason Alexander). It is clear that Sammy has no morality right from the start – he is greedy and self-centered. Almost immediately, he has a heart attack that causes an out of body experience. During that time, he encounters his former Sunday school teacher, Sister Margaret (Patti LuPone). The nun is a bit irreverent herself and tells Sammy that it does not matter if he has faith in his heart, but it a person’s good deeds that get him into heaven. Currently, Sammy is headed in the other direction. When he miraculously recovers, he thinks he can turn his route into the afterlife around by doing good deeds and atoning for his previous misdeeds. He seeks guidance from a priest, Father Michael (Santino Fontana), who agrees to help him find a worthy cause in the form of a Mrs. Fillmore (Carol Mansell) who is having trouble dealing with an insurance claim for her husband’s death.
Sammy also goes back to his ex-wife whom he left many years ago, Tracy (Justina Machado) and finds out he is a father of a young boy, Casper (Julian Emile Lerner). Casper is in trouble both at home and in school. Sammy tries to steer his son from his troubling path by convincing him that he doesn’t have to change his heart, just do good deeds because yes indeed, there is a judgement day.
Sammy’s own journey as he helps his son, comes to terms with his own wife, and helps Mrs. Fineman will make you look into your own feelings about faith, God, and your relationship to mankind. Many of the questions of the play are brought to the forefront in conversations between Sammy and Father Michael that spotlight the issues of faith and good deeds. Is doing positive things for others more important than faith or belief in God in seeking salvation? Father Michael brings these questions to his Monsignor (Michael McKean) and they examine their own feelings about religion and God. However, all of this is done in a very witty way. This play may be philosophical but theology comes with a spoon full of sugar. There is no soap box lecturing and Ulin leaves the decision to his audience.
Alexander’s wryness and acerbic acting style creates a horrible person but one who we like. As he reforms, we are hoping that it lasts, but we are glad he still remains a little prickly.
LuPone is perfect casting as Sister Margaret. She creates a nun who is somewhat irreligious, a little mean, and a bit profane. Is Sister Margaret part of the good in Sammy’s heart or part of the evil? LuPone, again, leaves that decision to the viewer.
Fontana as the young priest has his own emotional voyage. Through his relationship with Sammy, he comes to realize he has his own conflict with his faith. Their interaction while trying to get the “goods” on the inflexible insurance adjuster reveals a great deal about the two men.
Machado’s Tracy is played compassionately. She is the person in the story to whom we feel totally sympathetic. She could be too much a victim, but Machado avoids that peril. She gives her character strength as well as insight into her own history with Sammy.
McKean brings pomposity to the Monsignor. He is steadfast in his beliefs and inflexible in his judgement of others — a great contrast to the young priest.
Loretta Devine is Sammy’s assistant, Della. (A tribute to “Perry Mason?”) Devine does much with a small role. At moments, she is just a secretary and, at times, she reveals some understanding of Sammy’s heart.
Lerner as the young boy, Casper, has wonderful rapport with Machado and Alexander. He makes an endearing but troubled youth.
Mansell’s Edna comes off as religious but needy older woman. Mansell gives Mrs. Fillmore vulnerability which makes the actions of Father Michael and Sammy believable. Michael Mastro’s Jackson, the unlikeable insurance adjuster, is perfectly smarmy and callous. Elizabeth Stanley is sexy as the prostitute, Chandra. Bianca LaVerne Jones is a great fit as the tough principal of Casper’s school. Josh Johnston plays the bewildered doctor.
Penn has a very talented cast, and has created a seamless production. Doing a play by Zoom is a difficult project, but this one is extremely successful.
The final ruling on “Judgement Day” is it is well worth seeing. It is an interesting vehicle to get people thinking about their own beliefs and faith without preaching. In this production, you can catch some fine acting and have a few good laughs while you ponder the greater questions about life.
Running Time: One hour and 23 minutes with no intermission.
Note: There are some funny outtakes after the show.
“Judgement Day” runs from July 26-August 1, 2021. To purchase tickets, go to this link. Purchase before July 26 with the code “EARLY” and receive a $4 discount.