Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tell me a true lie, Angel.

I saw Stephen Adly Guirgis' Jesus Hopped the A Train in New York a decade ago when it first came out in a Labyrinth Theater Company production directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Guirgis, in this play and others, gets something basic about how regular people - even good people - end up committing stupid, tragic, bad acts, which, despite what is presented on "CSI" and The Silence of the Lambs, is what crime is mostly about. In the absence of this bit of knowledge, any real understanding of crime or people who commit crimes - I won't call this ever expanding segment of our population "criminals" because I don't believe that commiting a crime gives a person a permanent "mark of Cain" - is impossible.

Jesus Hopped the A Train is about a public defender, Mary Jane Hanrahan, and her client Angel Cruz, facing a murder charge on Riker's Island. Among its other virtues, it provides a good tutorial on lying during a scene in which Mary Jane uses bad judgment in prepping her client Angel to lie on the witness stand. Of course, when a lawyer knowingly encourages their client to testimony falsely, they have suborned perjury, a serious crime. So public defenders, don't try this at home, or rather, in the attorney client visiting room.

Jesus Hopped the A Train
Stephen Adly Guirgis

Mary Jane: You got a problem with lying.

Angel: I love to lie, tell me what to say.

Mary Jane: Tell me a lie.

Angel: About what?

Mary Jane: Anything. Lie. Right now.

Angel: Ah-aight . . . I invented electricity.

Mary Jane: Stop messing around?

Angel: I ain’t messin’ around. I invented the shit?

Mary Jane: Do you know how electricity works?

Angel: Not exactly.

Mary Jane: Then that’s a dumb lie? Tell me a smart lie.

Angel: Like what?

Mary Jane: My father drank Jamesons.

Angel: Dass a lie?

Mary Jane: He drank Bushmills. But it’s a smart lie because my father was a First Generation Irish Catholic who supported the IRA and Bushmill’s is known as a Protestant whiskey because it comes from the North. So it would be logical to assume that he wouldn’t be caught dead drinking a Protestant whiskey, even though he did. That’s a lie built on truth. That why it’s a good lie. Because it’s truth. Tell me a true lie, Angel.

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