Hopped The A Train
Young Vic Theatre February-March 2019
Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train, by Stephen Adly Guirgis, could make grim viewing with its serial killer, sadistic prison guard and a corrupt lawyer who cares more about winning than she does about justice or truth. Except the text and the production tilt this potentially disturbing content in amusing ways.
The play is set in New York's Rikers Island jail where the prisoner Angel awaits trial for the attempted murder of a religious cult leader and finds himself in conversation with the serial killer Lucius, who is being extradited to a state that wants to execute him. While Lucius, wearing two crucifixes, says he found God in prison, Angel cynically struggles to believe in God.
Both are bullied by guard Valdez (Joplin Sibtain), whose every word seems to threaten violence.
But these extreme characters, the judicial context and a plot that might have been dealing with anything from the inequalities of the system to the redemption of brutalised prisoners, simply act as a means to lots of fast dialogue, that has an eye for visual and verbal fun.
Kate Hewitt's imaginative direction of the play, performed on a bright raised traverse stage sliced by four movable metal framed glass doors, emphasises the sharp rhythmic humour of the text.
The cast confidently shift gear from quick-fire arguments between the characters to mini-monologues.
Oberon K A Adjepong as Lucius conveys charm, compassion and threat.
With fine comic timing the cast keep delivering the laughs and I will remember for some time Ukweli Roach as Angel mocking the idea of God being connected to the cult leader, by hobbling about as if he was that man trying to explain to God that his mission on earth had been messed up by someone shooting him 'in the arse.'
There is nothing serious about the play. It simply
samples ideas and social issues for fun. It is just a very entertaining
bit of theatre well directed and impressively performed.
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Review - Jesus Hopped The A Train - Young Vic Theatre 2019