BWW Review: JESUS HOPPED THE A TRAIN Exposes the Fragile Relationship Between Law and Justice, at CoHo Theatre
Commit the crime, do the time. It seems so simple, and so logical. But, as Stephen Adly Guirgis's JESUS HOPPED THE A TRAIN so superbly shows, nothing about our criminal justice system is that simple, or that logical. The play is heading into its final weekend at CoHo Theatre courtesy of CoHo Productions and The Beirut Wedding World Theatre Project. If you don't have your tickets yet, get them now.
The play opens with Angel Cruz (played by Anthony Lam) in a prison cell, desperately trying to remember the words of the Lord's Prayer. A few minutes later, he's haranguing Mary Jane Hanrahan (Dana Millican), the DA assigned to his case. He's aggressive and condescending to her because she's a woman, and it's soon revealed that he shot someone and he's not sorry about it. The judgement seems easy, but is it?
Next, we meet Lucius Jenkins (Bobby Bermea), also praying during his daily exercise routine. We don't learn about his crimes right away, just that they were bad enough to earn him the moniker "the Black Plague." But, he seems nice enough, based on his easy relationship with D'Amico (Duffy Epstein), a prison guard, and he claims to have found God. How do we judge him?
That's all of the plot I'm going to divulge, so as not to rob you of taking the anxiety-provoking journey yourself. All I'll tell you is that JESUS HOPPED THE A TRAIN explores the sometimes tenuous link between crime and morality. Does the greater good justify a small wrong? Do intentions matter, or just the consequences of one's actions? What impact does skin color or a position of power have on how we judge those actions? Are our laws just? Guirgis asks us to think carefully about where, as a society, we draw various lines in the sand and how blurry we're willing to let those lines be.
If you're thinking it all sounds pretty intense, you're right. Director Jamie M. Rea and the creative team (including scenic designer Rusty Tennant, lighting designer Kelly Terry, and sound designer Cameron McFee) have created an environment where it's impossible to breathe easily. That isn't a criticism. The questions this play asks us to consider are difficult, and, in the current political climate, our answers to them may well determine our societal trajectory. We shouldn't be comfortable.
I recommend JESUS HOPPED THE A TRAIN very highly. The production is excellent, the acting is outstanding, and the play is important.
JESUS HOPPED THE A TRAIN runs through May 11. More details and tickets here.