Monthly Archive for: ‘January, 2014’

JERUSALEM blasts out at SF Playhouse

Johnny issues his call to arms: Paris Hunter Paul*, Richard Louis James, Joshua Schell, Brian Dykstra*, Riley Krull, Devon Simpson, Ian Scott McGregor*.

JERUSALEM: Drama by Jez Butterworth. Directed by Bill English. The San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post Street (2nd Floor of Kensington Park Hotel, b/n Powell & Mason). 415-677-9596, or www.sfplayhouse.org. West Coast Premiere.

January 21 – March 8, 2014.

JERUSALEM blasts out  at SF Playhouse Rating: ★★★☆☆ (5/5 stars)

In the 1920s there was a literary battle between Henry Luce, editor of Time, and Harold Ross, editor of The New Yorker who is oft incorrectly quoted for his infamous line “not edited for the lady in Dubuque.” Rarely mentioned is Ross’ reply to Luce, “You’ve put your finger on it. I believe in malice.”  In our time, Bill English, Artistic Director of SF Playhouse, can be equated with Ross. Once again English and The Playhouse have mounted a block-buster of a show not for the lady in Dubuque.

It may not be for the aforementioned lady but it certainly was a hit for the youth of London who queued up at the Apollo Theatre where Jerusalem ran for over 1000 performances and winning the Olivier Award and the Tony on Broadway for Mark Rylance in a leading role in a play. If Bill English is attempting to attract younger people to the theatre, this show will probably do it.  However, this three hours and 20 minute show in three acts creates ambivalent feelings. Oddly the structure is Aristotelian following the constraints of the three unities of time, place and action.

The time is St. George’s Day in present day England and the action takes place in 24 hours in the illegal encampment of Jez Butterworth’s protagonist Johnny “Rooster” Byron (an excellent Brian Dykstra) who is a braggart with exuberant (or lousy with.  . your choice) charisma sufficient to attract the disenfranchised.  It is not only his charisma that attracts the young and old. It is his stash of drugs and booze that is available mostly for a price but also some freebies for the young girls that are attracted to him. Late in act one two of those young girls (Riley Krull  and Devon Simpson) crawl out from under the decrepit bus that hasn’t moved in 25 or so years.

You certainly would not want Rooster and his decrepit bus surrounded by detritus left over from nights of multifarious carousing parked in your back yard. Nor do the local law enforcement officers who arrive to paste the final eviction notice on the door. Before that happens, on a darkened stage there is a cacophony of rock music and with a burst of light the play begins. A young girl (Julia Belanoff) in a gossamer fairy costume steps forward to sing “Jerusalem” a William Blake poem that apparently is an anthem more revered than “God Save the Queen.” A four page glossary of terms is provided with the program to help the audience understand much of the dialog.

The eclectic denizens that occupy the encampment include Rooster’s wannabe side kick Ginger (a fine Ian Scott McGregor) who provides much of the humor with his persistent questioning of Rooster’s tall tales even though Rooster has the ability to give verisimilitude to them. His story about being born of virgin birth by a bullet is hilarious as is his meeting with the 40 foot giant who created Stonehenge and provided him with a drum to be used when help is needed.

There is befuddled Professor (Richard Louis James) who wanders in and out spouting bits of literature while searching for his long since dead dog. Young Lee (great acting by Paris Hunter Paul) who is immigrating to Australia and his close friend Davey (Joshua Schell) the slaughter-house guy who is emotional chained to the village.  Wesley (Christopher Reber) the local pub landlord, he is involved in the festivities for St George’s Day and has been roped in to doing the Morris Dancing but requires a drug fix to be able to perform.  Troy (Joe Estlack) who gives a spot-on frightening touch to his role as a local thug who, it is strongly implied, has sexually abused his missing step-daughter.

Within this maelstrom of hedonistic activity, Butterworth has written a touching scene between Rooster’s, his ex-girlfriend Dawn (a marvelous Maggie Mason) and their 9 year old son Marky (a charming Calum John) that almost ends in reconciliation.

The show ends with Rooster beating the drum with the thunderous steps of the Giant (??) approaching.  Dykstra gives a powerful performance that is worth the price admission.  The production with all the caveats should not be missed.One would hope that the dialect coaches would spend more time with the actors since the dialects ranged from excellent to unintelligible.

Production: Sound Design, Theodore J.H. Hulsker; Stage Manager, Maggie Koch; Lighting Design, Kurt Landisman; Props Artisan, Jacqueline Scott; Costume Design, Tatjana Genser; Set Design, Bill English; NY Casting, Judy Bowman; Dialect Coaches, Deborah Sussel and Jessica Berman; SF Casting, Lauren English                      

Cast(in alphabetical order) Julia Belanoff (Phaedra), Ian DeVaynes (Markey), Brian Dykstra (Johnny Rooster), Joe Estlack (Troy), Richard Louis James (Professor), Calum John (Marky), Riley Krull (Tanya Crawley), Maggie Mason(Dawn), Ian Scott McGregor (Ginger), Aaron Murphy (Parsons), Paris Hunter Paul (Lee), Christopher Reber (Wesley), David Raymond (Man 1/Understudy), Joshua Schell (Davey/Man 2), Devon Simpson (Pea), Courtney Walsh (Fawcett, U/S Dawn)

Kedar Adour, MD

Courtesy of  www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com

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