A dingy bar traps seven souls. A young man paces the room, only to stop and slam his glass down onto a table. A young girl rests with her head laid down on the bar. A studious man quietly reads the Bible. A provocatively dressed woman sneaks glances at a bearded man fiddling with his lighter. The heavy silence breaks with a flurry of questions, each person wondering why they are here.
“Because I brought you here,” sneers Lucifer, revealing himself from the shadows…
A traditional proscenium production, The First and the Last takes place after Armageddon. Having surrendered to God, Lucifer gets one soul to keep for himself, while the others are welcomed into Heaven. The seven notorious traitors he’s gathered must now decide for themselves which one will spend eternity in Hell with Lucifer, or they all will suffer that fate.
The First and the Last explores sin and the limits of forgiveness. Each character – torn from history like Cassius and Brutus, or the Bible like Judas and Eve – gets the opportunity to tell their side of why they are in Hell, their stories often differing from the villainous tales that have become legend. With more insight into what actually happened, the characters must evaluate and judge their own sins as well as the others’. Several ask forgiveness, while others stand defiant in their moral high ground. But how do they decide who should stay with Lucifer? Are certain sins unforgivable no matter the reason? Is one sin less evil than another? Should a sin be forgiven if one repents? What if they don’t repent? Where should the line be drawn?
With almost all of the characters on stage for the entire production, the strong ensemble cast excels in their portrayals of these misunderstood villains of lore. They play off each other wonderfully, bouncing from accuser to the accused, never once losing sight of the justifications for their actions. Each offers a sympathetic view of the sinful, bringing their humanity to light. Even Lucifer (Brian Brennan) is revealed to be a lonely and disheartened man, worthy of pity, even amidst his blustering threats.
The First and the Last, written by Daniel Botello and directed by Ani Marderosian, is a fascinating and masterful look at what constitutes a damnable sin and how we find forgiveness – in others as well as in ourselves.