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Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train

Review by Jaiden van Bork

To make the bleak interior of a prison cell an engaging theatrical space is a challenge, to be sure. But the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT) has done so  — and exceptionally well, at that —  in their first production of the season: Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train.

In this stunning take on the widely acclaimed drama, director Sherri Eden Barber invites us into a deeply immersive meditation on faith, justice, and mortality, telling the story of two inmates facing charges of murder in New York’s Rikers Island – Angel Cruz (Pedro Gonzalez), accused of murdering a powerful cult leader; and Lucius Jenkins (Shakur Tolliver), a convicted serial killer who claims to have found God and been reborn in prison.

For over two hours, and without intermission, audiences are subject to the sobering oppressiveness of this environment — the pale gray walls and the harsh scraping of cell doors opening and closing — only occasionally departing from this setting. We are locked in with these characters as they attempt to wrestle with their realities, slowly counting down the days. We stare down these empty walls alongside them, and yet it feels impossible to look away.

It’s all impressively captivating. It would be incredibly easy for such a uniquely minimalistic show to become inaccessible or bland, but phenomenal performances by Gonzalez and Tolliver make the theater feel alive. The pair make up for the mostly empty stage with rich portrayals of two fascinating individuals who both seem to expose each others’ inner feelings in the most uncanny way.

Christopher Ostrom once again proves to be a master of scenic composition, combining the set’s sparse brutalism with often subtle, but always perfect lighting design — revealing something important about the stakes of this story with eerie, distorted human shadows and beckoning rays of sunlight dripping from above. Ostrom’s work serves as an essential and invisible third lead character in this production, framing every second of the narrative and enriching Gonzales and Tolliver’s performances at every turn.

Barber and company present this gripping, challenging, and unapologetically raw piece with an artistic grace that comes only with careful dedication and widereaching experience. One could see the play becoming heavy-handed, awkward, and preachy in the hands of the wrong cast and crew, but WHAT’s production skillfully avoids such pitfalls, producing something honest, poignant, and beautifully layered and complex. Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train brings the theater’s latest season to an extraordinary start that is not to be missed.

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train is performed at the WHAT Julie Harris Stage, 2357 Rte. 6, Wellfleet, Tuesdays – Saturdays, 8 p.m., through June 17. For tickets and information call 508.349.9428 or visit

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Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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