It’s not much of a spoiler to note that the Angel in Judgment Day gets the last laugh. In fact, we hear the Angel — also known as Sister Margaret from the lead character’s childhood — laugh at several different points in the new play, the script of which actually instructs the actor to cackle each time.
And with Patti LuPone cast in the role, rest assured you hear a cackle to end all cackles, one sounding almost diabolically possessed. Recorded last summer as a benefit for the Barrington Stage Company in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts and now streaming in an encore presentation through the Stellar Events platform, the virtual play reading even throws in a few amusing outtakes for good measure.
“Shit! Motherfucker,” LuPone is heard in one blooper, right after her landline phone rings while shooting a split-screen scene with Jason Alexander. With perfect timing, Alexander interjects, “Is that God, Sister?”
In this promising debut play from veteran TV comedy writer/producer Rob Ulins (CBS’s Young Sheldon, Hulu’s Ramy), Alexander portrays corrupt, morally bankrupt lawyer Sammy Campo, who sets out to redeem himself after a terrifying Angel threatens him with eternal damnation during a near-death encounter.
He forms an unlikely bond with a Catholic priest (Santino Fontana), setting the stage for debates over timeless questions about morality, faith, religion, and human behavior. “I wanna figure out the rock-bottom least amount of good I need to do to get into Heaven,” Sammy says early upon meeting the priest, who snaps back, “It doesn’t work that way.”
Judgment Day itself works very well under the deft direction of Matthew Penn, who helps the large cast shine — a virtual roster also including Michael McKean, Justina Machado, Julian Emie Lerner, Loretta Devine, Carol Mansell, Michael Mastro, Josh Jonston, Bianca LaVerne Jones, and Elizabeth Stanley.
The end result is a production with sharp performances adding enough subtle dimension and vitality to almost help it defy reality, often looking and feeling like more than the staged play reading over Zoom it ultimately is.
Judgment Day streams through Aug. 1 on Stellar Events as a benefit for Barrington Stage. Tickets are $11.99. Visit www.StellarTickets.com.
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