Harbouring resentful thoughts: a traffic warden’s ticket, the tax man claiming your rebate or the neighbour playing techno till 4am is not unusual. Acting on them by way of murder is, as life teaches, ‘unlawful’. Thrashing out this human dilemma is what Stephen Adly Guirgis does with aplomb in his production of ‘Jesus Hopped The ‘A’ Train’, writes Carolyn Taylor.
Staging this dark, prison-based comedy through theatre in the round worked wonders for this play. Inmates are subjected to our scrutiny. Standing in orange prison garbs upon their catwalk of shame, incarcerated, we hold power to forgive or condemn, we are judge and jury. No hiding either from the brutality meted out by Valdez, a prison guard played by Joplin Sibitain, who boasts, ‘I am the constitution’, liking nothing better than to hang anyone with a misdemeanour. As Valdez judges them, we judge him, them, the attorney and so on… Digging deep we question ‘good ’and ‘bad’.
A naive belief in law and order presents us with an attorney, Mary Jane Hanrahan (Dervla Kerwin), who uses truth and lie statistics to manipulate verdicts. Mary recognises human denial for what it is telling us – ‘My father was still smoking while in an oxygen tent’ – the truth just needs to be palatable.
So, is faith possible in an unjust society? Set on Riker’s Island prison, in a country responsible for imprisoning more people than any other, it would seem improbable. Yet Lucius Jenkins, adeptly brought to life by Oberon K.A. Adjepong, has bucket loads,. Believing the sun his saviour, the serial killer dismisses his eight murders. Charismatic Lucius, using language like a well played instrument, we want to protect him from Valdez.
Ukweli Roach as Angel Cruz demonstrates the insanity of avenging a persuasive cult leader, yet is swayed by a similar persona in Lucius. Angel’s visceral, raging injustice spews out trying to wake the world up to listen to sense. Angel, exposes demons in us, truths, half truth and lies. Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train gives insight into the human condition, our willingness to justify and the lengths we go to.
Jesus Hopped The ‘A’ Train is on at The Young Vic, 66 The Cut, Waterloo, London, SE1 8LZ until 30 March. Times: Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm; Matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2.30pm. Admission: £10 – £40. Phone: 0207 922 2922.
Photos: Credit Johan Persson