Faith in the Penal System 

After several unnecessary scenes, Cruz finds himself next to Lucius Jenkins (Theodore M. Snead), a serial killer trying to evade extradition to Florida and certain execution, and the dramatic engine finally gets revving.

Under Tovah Nu¤ez's seamless direction, Jenkins pushes the buttons of a sadistic guard (Jeffrey A. Schmidt) as he simultaneously charms and befriends Cruz in an outdoor recreation area. In a nice piece of actor's craftsmanship, Snead transforms himself from bug-eyed crank to religious fanatic to murderous monster.

Guirgis, a native New Yorker and colleague of Philip Seymour Hoffman, is considered one of the finest young playwrights working today. However, despite considerable virtuosity in his dialogue (and an abundance of F-words), there isn't enough story to carry the two-hour show. Eliminating 30 or so minutes from the script would concentrate its power in the highly charged scenes between Cruz and Lucius.

Two of the five characters are unnecessary. A second guard (S. Wayne Melnick) and Cruz's attorney (Jen Meharg) address the audience in cardboard speeches filled with aphorisms and pointless exposition. However, a crucial religious conversion near the end of the play is not even dramatized.

With chain link and barbed wire, Mercedes L. Schaum's set creates a chest-tightening sense of confinement. And lighting designer Joe Doran punctuates a number of dramatic moments with shadows and silhouettes.

I can't pretend to unravel the tangle of issues of faith that Guirgis weaves. In fact, no single theme seems to crystallize by the end of the play. With some clarifications and a little trimming here and there, this might have become an astonishing piece of work. But even as it is, there's enough dazzling dialogue to make the show worth seeing. — Jerrell Nickerson

"Jesus Hopped the A-Train" continues through July 25 at the Little Theatre, 114 W. Broad St. Tickets are $18 ($10 for students). Call 282-2620.


Letters to the editor may be sent to: letters@styleweekly.com

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

  • Re: Eye Catching

    • Thanks for sharing this article. A beautiful pair of sunglasses that perfectly match your face…

    • on March 24, 2017
  • Re: Event Pick: The Church Hill Irish Festival

    • The Irish Festival is a 2-day event. Saturday March 25 & Sunday March 26

    • on March 23, 2017
  • Re: Event Pick: Meet-A-Bandmate for First Time’s The Charm RVA

    • Hey Scott, you can feel free to send me information about your background and music…

    • on March 23, 2017
  • More »
  • Latest in Arts and Culture

    Copyright © 2017 Style Weekly
    Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
    All rights reserved
    Powered by Foundation