There is a group of determined Anglophiles that have brought to Broadway the Royal Court Theatre production of “Jerusalem” by Jez Butterworth starring the incredible Mark Rylance who has made his mark twice this season at The Music Box on West 45th Street.
First in La Bete and now in this three act three hour long, draining character study of Johnny “Rooster” Byron called “Jerusalem” – referring to the British hymn and having nothing at all to do with the Holy City. To see it is to become a survivor.
In Ian Rickson’s “Directors Notes” he states that “Jerusalem itself functions as a metaphor for heaven on earth, where people live in peace and in connection with the land.”
If that squalid trailer, in the middle of a dense forest created by Ultz is heaven on earth I’ll gladly pass on to the after life. It is where Johnny, an ex-dare devil drug dealer with a bad limp and local celebrity of sorts holds court to his flock of young groupies and assorted oddballs who gather to take drugs, party, have sex and fight off the developers of a nearby estate who want to have Johnny evicted from his squalor.
Johnny is a master teller of tall tales and can be charming and amusing. For a while. Seeing him self destruct finally covered with sweat and blood explaining to his young son who isn’t at all fazed one bit by his demeanor or looks is frightening and a bit over the top. It’s as if his boy has seen this all before and so what. How sad. And I too chime in with – So what. Who cares about him or his flock of losers.
Losers that include Lee (John Gallagher, Jr.) – a young man leaving for Australia (who losers his accent every once in a while) The Professor (Alan David – who has lost his dog and part of his mind, Ginger (Mackenzie Crook) – a guy high on whatever is available claiming to be a DJ when in reality he is an unemployed plasterer, Dawn his estranged and even stranger wife (Geraldine Hughes) their young son Marky (Aiden Eyrick) the missing fifteen year old Phaedra (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) looking very much like Tinker Bell whose father Troy Whitworth (Barry Sloane) eventually finds with Johnny and beats the crap out of him along with his two brothers on the day of the St. George Fair where Wesley (Max Baker) decked out in traditional costume does a folk dance. They are a group of lost boys and girls with Johnny as their leader – a combination of Peter Pan, King Lear, Falstaff and Charles Manson (although no murders are on the menu).
Phaedra sings, Tanya (Charlotte Mills) looks to be laid, Trivial Pursuit is played and Mark Rylance struts and shows off his immense talent for acting. He’s mesmerizing. It’s an incredible performance that leaves us all drained. This drunken, drugged up wise guy and teller of improbable and imaginative tales and sex God somehow holds everything together. Were it not for Mark Rylance I would say skip “Jerusalem”.
www.jerusalembroadway.com Photo: Simon Annand
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