The Stephen Adly Guirgis-written, Philip Seymour Hoffman-directed Jesus Hopped the A Train — which was an Off-Off-Broadway success last summer, and then even a bigger triumph Off-Broadway for the LAByrinth Theatre Company in recent weeks — will close its limited run on East 13th Street on Dec. 31.
Jesus boasted overflow crowds this past summer, with people often sitting in the aisle of the tiny Chelsea-area Center Stage. The prison drama closed on Aug. 12 as scheduled, to make way for another play, but Nov. 21 Jesus rose again in a commercial run, this time winning a spirited review from the New York Times and other publications, and selling out its last two weeks of performances. The resurrection was always planned as a limited run of six weeks, however.
There is hope that the taut drama may yet live again. Producers want to remount the show in May at a commercial Off-Broadway theatre, a press spokesperson told Playbill On-Line. A slighter larger house will be sought. One of the shows star, John Ortiz, will not be part of the new remounting. Ortiz is committed to appear in the upcoming Public Theater production of References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot. The Jose Rivera play will star Rosie Perez and open in April.
Hoffman directed the piece directly after exited his role-switching duties in the Broadway production of True West. Guirgis is also author of OOB's Sistah Supreme.
A Train takes place in a northern city prison, and is primarily the story of two inmates. One, Angel Cruz, is a sweet, confused youth who rashly shot a local cult leader in retaliation for the guru's having drafted his best friend. In jail, he meets Lucius Jenkins, a Bible-quoting fitness freak who preaches a philosophy of positive thinking while busily trying to beat an attempt to extradite him to Florida for a series of serial murders. Trying to drive them apart is Valdez, a thuggish, abusive prison guard, while Angel's female lawyer, Mary Jane Hanrahan, goes a couple steps over the legal line to secure her client's acquittal. The production was given a kinetic, fast-moving production by Hoffman, complementing Guirgis' expletive-filled, serio-comic writing style.
Designing the show were Narelle Sissons (set), Mimi O'Donnell (costumes), Sarah Sidman (lighting) and Eric DeArmon (sound).
The original cast of Jesus will make the transfer. John Ortiz (Sueno, Cloud Tectonics) plays Angel. Ron Cephas Jones is Lucius, David Zayas is Valdez, Elizabeth Canavan is Hanrahan, and Salvatore Inzerillo is prison guard D'Amico.
Ron Kastner, Roy Gabay and John Gould Rubin produce.
Hoffman and Guirgis collaborated last year of LAByrinth's hit production of Guirgis' In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings, a production which enjoyed an extended run. The play was set amidst the current "new and improved" antiseptic Times Square, where alcoholic hookers, crackheads and gigolos meet to drink, talk, and have sex — all trying to find their way to the next day.
— By Robert Simonson