The Stephen Adly Guirgis-written, Philip Seymour Hoffman-directed Jesus Hopped the A Train, presented by the LAByrinth Theatre Company, was a rousing success last summer, with overflow crowds often sitting in the aisle of the tiny Chelsea-area Center Stage. The prison drama closed on Aug. 12, 2000, but rose again in a commercial run at E. 13th Street in November.
When that production closed Dec. 31, there was talk that the taut drama might yet live again. Producers wanted to remount the show in May at a commercial Off-Broadway theatre, a press spokesperson told Playbill On Line. Well, that mounting never happened, but Jesus is still alive. The play will travel to the Edinburgh Theatre Festival, Jesus star and LAByrinth co-artistic director John Ortiz told Playbill On-Line. The fest runs Aug. 3-28. It can be reached on the web at http://www.edfringe.com/home.html.
Ortiz added that he will not be reprising his role in the drama, due to commitments involving his television show "The Job."
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 Harnahan, 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 featured John Ortiz (Sueno, Cloud Tectonics) playing Angel. Ron Cephas Jones as Lucius, David Zayas as Valdez, Elizabeth Canavan as Harnahan, and Salvatore Inzerillo as prison guard D'Amico.
—By Robert Simonson