Judas Iscariot is a heavy drinker; that's how he gets through his days in Hell. Pontius Pilate chooses to garden to pass the time. And Simon Peter? Well, he's around there too, all three locked into a place they didn't want to be. In The Book of Maggie, a new comedy written by young Houston playwright Brendan Bourque-Sheil, audience expectations (as well as any religious reverence) may take something of a beating in this premiere staged at Stages Repertory Theatre.
Josh Morrison, who's directing the work, says Bourque-Sheil (a former member of the Young Actors Conservatory at Stages) sent Stages Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin his script about two years ago asking for pointers. “Kenn read the script and realized it had a lot of great potential, and passed it on to me to read. I absolutely fell in love with it,” Morrison says. And so instead of just offering suggestions, Stages decided to workshop and then produce the world premiere of the two-act story of second chances set in a minimalist – rather than fire and brimstone – Hades.
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Which brings us to the title character, Maggie, a young woman determined to kill herself. “Judas Iscariot has been given the task of saving her life as kind of a ticket into Heaven,” Morrison says. “And there's another character, named Joan, who is on the verge of death and so Pontius Pilate has been given the job of sending her back to Earth to redeem her sort of wild and wicked sort of ways. That's his ticket to Heaven. These guys are tasked with the job of saving these folks who don't necessarily want to be saved.”
Complicating things further, these would-be saviors are not very good at their jobs, or as a line in the play notes: “God didn't exactly send in the A-team.” Luis Galindo (The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Marie Antoinette, Failure: A Love Story, Wittenberg) plays Judas, Nick Farco (Small Mouth Sounds at Stark Naked,) plays Peter, Seán Patrick Judge (Silence) is Pontius Pilot, Courtney Lomelo (Pollywog at Mildred's Umbrella) is Joan and Melissa Molano (Dollhouse) is Maggie.
"It's a really really fun, interesting play that's got a little bit of Marx Brothers, a little bit of Three Stoogies but asks some really big questions about what we think of Heaven and Hell actually being,” Morrison says.
Performances are scheduled for January 20 through February 14 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit stagesthreatre.com. $21-$54.