Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train
Stephen Adly Guirgis
Synergy Theatre Project
Angel knows putting an educational bullet in a man's backside isn't the same as attempted murder. Lucius has found Jesus, and is busy atoning for multiple homicide through prayer. For Mary Jane, successfully defending a (technically) guilty man is a thrill she can't do without. And Officer Valdez sleeps sound at night knowing his charges had their chances and blew 'em, so anything he does to them is a consequence of their own actions.
Every character in Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train is at peace with who they are and the things they've done. This isn't how prison dramas begin; it's where they typically end.
This, then, is not a journey of redemption in the Hollywood sense. Practically the opposite, in fact. The characters - two inmates, one Puerto Rican one African-American, two guards and a lawyer, all white - spend the play chipping away at each other's ivory towers, eventually leaving them all defenceless, divested of their comfortable rationalisations.
The implication is an uncomfortable one: that there may be some acts, some decisions, that we shouldn't be allowed the luxury of coming to amicable terms with.
Because Stephen Adly Guirgis invests every one of his characters with the necessary wit to systematically dismantle the others' worldviews, the dialogue - and it's a dialogue-heavy play and no mistake - crackles like regiments exchanging salvos. As befits that martial aspect it's riddled with profanity; but it's also eloquent and lyrical. Lucius (Ricky Fearon) in particular sways with the compelling vocal cadences of a proselytising preacher.
In his mouth - and in Angel's stuttering one, and through Mary Jane's clipped, honest phrasing - the play's philosophy, however uncomfortable to contemplate, sounds like the only one that makes the slightest sense.
Reviewer: Matt Boothman